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Tim Hodgkinson / Konk Pack - Klarnt / The Black Hills

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Artist: Tim Hodgkinson / Konk Pack

Album: Klarnt / The Black Hills

Label: Grob

Review date: Jan. 13, 2011


Tim Hodgkinson - "Track 8" (Klarnt)


Tim Hodgkinson’s music could be described as a study in the dichotomy between presence and absence. Unlike, say, the more recent work of Evan Parker, silence plays an equal role to sound, and what is not stated is just as important as the pithy fragments that comprise Hodgkinson’s playing in these two very different environments. We find him solo on Klarnt, and in the company of Roger Turner and Thomas Lehn for another miles-deep contribution to the Konk Pack catalog.

Klarnt‘s title signifies the search for essence. This most recent disc of solo clarinet pieces feels as if -- as the title suggests -- a few elements have been stripped away, and we are left with essence, or with a very potent extract. Many of these 11 untitled vignettes are fairly brief, packing myriad gestures into each moment. Even on the longer pieces, such as the final track, each second seems ready to burst with ideas. Dynamics have little to do with impact, as many moments of the most concentrated energy hang barely above a whisper. Instead, there is a sense of heightened emotion as Hodgkinson plums every register and mood of which the clarinet is capable.

With these come opaque but palpable references. Consider the gemmy fragment opening the first track, conjuring some sort of Middle-Eastern or Pan-Asian gestalt before disappearing. Or, in the fourth piece, shades of long-gone gas-pipe clarinetists are channeled and then dispelled as Hodgkinson hiccups the track to life. Yet, despite being jam-packed, the playing never feels frantic, and there’s always room to let each statement breathe. Beyond that, each moment of reflection cleanses the palette for what follows, giving each piece a sense of circular finality.

A similar description might be given to Hodgkinson’s guitar work, but on the new Konk Pack, Turner and Lehn play the role of counterpart and doppelganger by turn. On “The Welcome,” Turner and Lehn build a constant backdrop against which Hodgkinson emotes; the three occasionally burst into powerful blasts and gusts of what might adequately be called post-rock, as only its skeleton remains. It is almost a different band that emerges on “Saturn Bar,” and that’s mainly down to Lehn’s absolutely unique synthesizer work, here choppy and sometimes rhythmic as the others join him in creating communicative detachment. Most surprising, however, is what occurs partway through “The Grave,” when a crystalline unity takes shape; all three musicians emit belltones in different registers to mesmerizing effect.

If Hodgkinson’s stunning diversity needed further documentation, these discs provide it. They speak to a mind in constant exploration, both alone and with collaborators willing to go on the journey with him.

By Marc Medwin

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