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Serge Baghdassarians/Boris Baltschun/Lars Scherzberg/Jacob Thein - Ilinx

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Artist: Serge Baghdassarians/Boris Baltschun/Lars Scherzberg/Jacob Thein

Album: Ilinx

Label: FMP

Review date: Apr. 4, 2008

Shiver me timbers, an FMP release! I thought the grand old German label was defunct, so this is nice to see. From the very start, this is rambunctious post-industrial free improv in the early ’00s GROB vein. Think Konk Pack for sure, or some similarly aggressive amalgam of electronics and European free music. Lars Scherzberg slices and dices through the field of perky electronics his session mates Serge Baghdassarians and Boris Baltschun frequently plow, framed by the rolling, Lovens-ish percussion of Jacob Thein.

This punchy approach to improvisation is especially evident on the blunt jab “Position of the Plucking Point.” My initial thought was that it speaks well of Baghdassarians and Baltschun (heard to good effect on recent releases from labels Absinth, Creative Sources and Potlatch) for throwing themselves into such a wide variety of situations; they’re resourceful and imaginative enough players (much like Thomas Lehn) to handle their business in a lusty European free improv (or efi) session like this. But then I checked the recording date: this music comes mostly from 2000 (only the tentative “Somehow metallic” was recorded in 2001).

Regardless of periodization, what about the music? There are a lot of birdsong moments where Scherzberg sets the tone (and I could swear I hear Lovens’ saw). Elsewhere, however, there are thick clusters of variety, as where Baltschun and Baghdassarians set up a nice contrast at the end of “Bridge Velocity” (crackling flames and lower register gurgling, probably a detuned guitar) or the skirling, skittering noise on “Resonators Response” (which is more hushed but still insectoid).

On some level, I appreciate the way in which Scherzberg and Thein don’t self-consciously try to modify their approach due to the presence of electronics. But this doesn’t always mean that the result is successful. Consider the snorting swine and 50s sci-fi on “Quilt” – this piece is, like many here, filled with tiny gestures that don’t really amount to much.

It’s not the case that this is simply episodic or a reflection of the group’s efi methodology; what I mean to say is that there just isn’t enough of interest here to sustain the length of the pieces. Too many times the group falls back on now very familiar techniques, resulting in music that’s impressive but a bit tedious. For example, on “Plane of Consistency” chirruping electronics are met with a Butcher-esque sax burr and scraped percussion (both rough and luxuriant). But how many tracks like this are available, and how many more are needed?

In fairness, it’s not substantively worse than a lot of other stuff in this vein, just as it’s not substantively better. But there have been an awful lot of records like this in the last 10 years. For what it’s worth, this release would likely be more impressive had it been issued promptly. If you haven’t heard much in this efi vein, you could do a lot worse than this record, but for veteran improv freaks, little here will shake you from your ennui.

By Jason Bivins

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