Wednesday, January 2, 2008

origami - the art of folding musical chairs: T H Boe and others

The intricate world of the Origami Republika 'collective' is too complex to revisit here. A short version - a very fluid collection of musicians who release music under groupings/subunits with Origami in the name (for over 17 years), perhaps T H Boe is the most active 'agent' (each member has an A number - Boe is A22, Genesis P-Orridge is A188 etc). All product not only gets the label number but also a KomKol catalogue number - now well over 200. A fair bit of material is available freely - and there are also the Allied Forces of Light. Anyway - go to the home page for more and more details! Ampersand has touched on the Republika in the past, and now T H has sent three disks to taste.

They feature Boe and his acoustic laptop - which is pictured here. A briefcase with bells, wires, mikes and other pieces of arsenal for creating small close sounds. Reviewed in ascending order of both length and numbers. Baunoten by Origami Boe is released on Con-v as an MP3 (CONV,
cnv42). It is one of 6 support gigs that Boe did for Einstuzende Neubauten in 2004. The Con-v site has a link to his description of the creation - the base is a recording based on EN's webcasts, which gives a variable drone base, over which Boe improvises on his laptop. This provides tinkles, twangs, shimmers and assorted simple noises. The piece starts quietly and there is a sudden eruption of shouting, an exchange, then clapping and the audience quietens down - perhaps the EN crowd were expecting something different! The dronework was recorded in a room with open mikes so feedback hiss and rumbles build at various times. Boe has some running twang-play, shimmers, an earthslide of contact mike rubbing, banging and a simple toy-piano like melody that provides a highlight before ending to clapping. This is an interesting short work which may have benefited from more emphasis on the drones - which would have given a better balance.

As Origami Tacet Boe is joined by Michael F Duch on double bass, which adds live drone. E.xtrem t.on (ambolthue records MP3ambolt-9 there are a few Origami releases on this label) was recorded live in August 2007 and is a single track (but with 4 parts). It opens with a short plinking competition before sliding into more complex work, the bass offering slides, pulses (that seem looped), plucking and soft scraping while Boe pops, clicks, and percusses. The tracks can be identified as the structure changes - the pulsing loop is played with rapid percussions, a drone accompanies an earthquake of contact miking, a more abstract bass solo or the toy piano (or plucked tight strings in the box) with similar sounds from the bass. This is a very nicely paced album - well considered changes and combinations, with the two artists working off each other. The acoustic warmth of the bass is a great boon, balancing the shorter harsher acoustic laptop material.

Finally, the Origami All-stars Earwitness (tecnonucleo TN002) sees Boe joined by violin, synth and samples. There are 7 tracks recorded in the studio. Unlike many improv albums it starts with a very quiet, restrained piece which emphasises silence. This changes as the album develops - there are some noisy passages. On the whole the violin seems to add sounds other than bowed strings: there are a couple of places where there is some, through the drones could be synths; the synth is largely identified through feedback and assorted noise and to be honest I can't say what the samples were. Overall the album is surprisingly restrained - while it gets noisy and full at times, it is largely a lighter brew of drones, hisses, acoustic laptop work, feedback and so on. Some tracks are particularly attractive - buzzing, feedback, harmonium like tones in 3; the active battling tumble of 6; hollow taps and some sawing on 7; the warmth that occurs in 3 after the loudness has decreased. However, I was left feeling that the wholes was less than the sum of the parts - the balance of the instruments is too weighted to the high end, harsher noises, and the tonal varietywhich underpins the other two pieces is missed. And as the Beethoven quartets surround me as I write this, perhaps the emotional depth offered by the double bass is what makes that album more appealing - and the violin could have supplied it here.

(all these releases are available for free download - follow the linked text - so you can hear for yourselves)

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