Gunda Gottschalk / Xu Fengxia — Youlan
(Victo 117, 2009, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2011-06-01
Here we have a set of live improvisations with Gunda Gottschalk, a German violinist, and Xu Fengxia, a Chinese guzheng player; both of them also provide vocal sounds. The guzheng is an ancient Chinese zither-type instrument, the precursor to the Japanese koto, which has 21 strings tuned to a pentatonic scale. Both players experiment freely with different non-standard ways of producing sounds from their instruments, though they are also skilled at the traditional modes of play. The two have been working together for a long time, previously as members of the late Peter Kowald’s 365 Days and Global Village ensembles, and continuing in other collaborations with Barre Philips, Baby Sommer, Le Quan Ninh, and others. While it’s certainly true that improvised music featuring these two instruments (plus “extended” vocal techniques) could be difficult going, I find the music pleasantly listenable, even though it’s clearly not catchy or conventional in any way. Perhaps it’s because the guzheng is an inherently tonal instrument – you’d have to mess with the strings quite a bit to be truly atonal – or maybe it’s just that the players’ intentions run in other directions, but there’s not a lot of jarring dissonance. The vocal elements are occasionally strange, involving growls, yowls, and ranting, including some Chinese from Xu that I could almost make out (something about “can’t go home,” I think), but never annoying, at least to my ears. Neither woman uses any electronic manipulation of the signals, so there’s an organic quality to the sound.
Harold Budd RIP – Harold Budd, one of pre-eminent American composers of avant-garde and minimalism, has died of complications from the coronavirus. Budd came to prominence in the 70s, championed by Brian Eno on his Obscure Records label, with music that blended academic minimalism with electric jazz and electronic music. Much of Budd's best known work was done in collaboration with other artists, including Eno, Daniel Lanois, Robin Guthrie, Andy Partridge, John Foxx, Jah Wobble, and many others. » Read more
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more