Kristian Blak

John Tchichai
Anybody Home?
Both titles: Tutl (

Recorded in the same marine cave, Klaemintsgjogv, off the coast of the Faroe Islands, each of these works successfully feature the acoustic space itself as one of the performers. Because the North Atlantic cave is partially water filled, entered only by small boat (in good weather), the presence of water sounds is constant. Danish saxophonist and free jazz/improvising legend John Tchichai plays a more prominent and constant role in his turn inside Klaemintsgjogv, though accompanied by four other instrumentalists (on various percussion, drums, voice, and naverlur(?)). Tchichai makes a roving textured recital without too much honk and squeak that moves toward a climax. Inserted in the middle of "Anybody Home?" is a chamber performance "Forwards & Backwards" featuring Tchichai and the 9-piece Esbjerg Ensemble, which, in view of its modern classical tone, makes for a nice but still related diversion from the free blowing. Gluing the whole album together are excerpts of various local bird cooings, which prove as alien sounding as everything else.

Composer and keyboardist Kristian Blak has written a suite of thirteen parts in which one of five players is featured at one time or another in each, and in combination. Blak's long career has reflected the rich stock of Faroese folk music and hymns, and his Klaemint Suite here shows evidence of these. His gentler, milder version of the cave music is scored for five pieces including electric guitar & bass, trumpet, keyboards and percussion, augmented with some wordless vocals, yet still maintains an improvised ECM-ish feel. But though most moments here evoke serenity be warned there are a few menacing passages too.

The echoic atmosphere of Clement's Grotto is so startling that these performers seem under a spell not to convey music of normal concert form. They make sounds largely in a rhythm free, sometimes halting manner, which allows the cave to speak back into the playing with its own voice of reverberation. Is it ambience? Is it music? It would seem to be both or neither; perhaps it's an interactive phenomenon where sound-etched rock and space emerge as an otherly, little heard or understood entity, that is the controlling architect of what is going on? Klaemint is more akin to listening to cave paintings, for the sounds are frequently spare, awkwardly organic, primitive. While not easily grasped because of their unusual psychology and spirit, these recordings represent rare listening. - Steve Taylor

Both CDs are available from cdRoots

Hollow Ear

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