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Burkhard Stangl / Kai Fagaschinski - Musik — Ein Porträt In Sehnsucht

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Artist: Burkhard Stangl / Kai Fagaschinski

Album: Musik — Ein Porträt In Sehnsucht

Label: Erstwhile

Review date: Jan. 7, 2010

The German word “sehnsucht,” which has no direct English translation, represents a deep longing in which the desire is sweeter than its consummation could ever be. By choosing to represent it with music, Burkhard Stangl (guitars, electronics, piano, vibraphone) and Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet, piano, guitar) bypass the inadequacies of language, but also tread on thin ice. After all, one man’s ineffable beauty is another’s mawkish corn. Approach it too directly and you end up with a bumper sticker statement, too indirectly and you lose the point altogether.

Stangl and Fagaschinski haven’t recorded previously as a duo, but their shared history reaches back to 2002, when the latter participated in the former’s not-terribly-operatic opera “Venusmond.” Between them they’ve practiced in the realms of popular, classical, electronic, jazz and improvised music; with so many options at their command, the task at hand was not just choosing what to play, but how to narrow things down.

They recorded the music quickly, over two days in May and August 2007, and then let it sit for over a year before assembling it in late 2008. The result feels carefully constructed, with every note in place and the timing of every gesture considered; this music may be about sentiment, but it’s the result of rigorous calculation. Sounds cold-blooded, but it works. The two men have distilled the music to the point where you don’t worry about what to call it — it simply is. Each folk-like melodic progression, minimalist-informed sustained tone, or introduced disruption occurs exactly where and when it should to best realize the representation of some facet of that elusive state.

But they don’t get too precious about it. Sure, there are moments on “Time (and Again)” and “Last Night I Had Visions” that are jewel-like in their loveliness, but there’s also “Ausflug,” which pairs recordings of car sounds with a distant squall of distorted guitar. At first it seems out of place, but how many internal monologues of longing, not to mention filmic representations of them, have played out behind the wheel? Apparently "sehnsucht" has room for heading out on the highway and looking for adventure as well as quietly contemplating the birds in the forest.

By Bill Meyer

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