Tunji Beier and Matthias Loibner - Zykado

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Tunji Beier and Matthias Loibner
Galileo / Nube

It is only fitting that a musician with the breadth of Matthias Loibner's musical interests should take his musical explorations into the realm of electronics and cross-cultural percussion. Joined by the equally versatile Tunji Beier on percussion, Zykado defies easy categorization. Immanently listenable, the duo uses traditional instruments along with electronic looping and other sound processing tools, modified jazz drum kit, talking drum, jaw harps, and a smorgasbord of instruments from all over the globe to craft music that sounds spontaneous, yet structured.

According to the liner notes, the title derives from a combination of Cicada (“equates to the hurdy-gurdy trompette and constancy”) and Mikado (pick-up sticks, which “equates to drum-sticks and fragility”). The artsy graphics on the liner notes highlight both elements. With the mixture of Indian drumming voice syllables, solid musicianship, and accessible melodic ideas, Zykado is an ideal introduction to Loibner's work. While die-hard hurdy-gurdy aficionados might at first find the eclectic sounds distracting from the main attraction, close listening reveals Loibner playing at the same level of mastery as found on his other albums.

The aforementioned liner notes favor visual artiness over content, but describing this music runs the risk of sounding like a disjointed list of cross-cultural influences, which the music itself transcends due to Loibner and Beier's discipline and artistic rigor. Also, one can barely begin to describe the delight one gets from hearing the hurdy-gurdy take on the lightning fast rhythmic patterns of the Indian voice-percussion themes.

On tracks like “Try to Remember” Loibner's tender treatment of the melody is given a rich setting of jaw harp, electronics, and percussion to bridge the gap between the modern and the ancient. This is music that was composed in the current age, but with deep taproots into tradition. Even jazz and rock figure in this composition, although in a context that is neither forced nor clichéd. Even in a piece like “Pink & Green II”, with electronic effects and melodic ideas at times reminiscent of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, the music sounds fresh and original. There are plenty of tips of the hat to other sounds, but never slavish imitation.

Since this review is in the context of a wider look at Loibner's oeuvre, I have given unfair short-shrift to Beier's prowess. He is an equal partner in this album, and the two musicians trade motifs in a manner that allows the focus to move from one to the other seamlessly.

Some of the tracks on Zykado are taken from live concerts, others were built layer-by-layer in the studio, while still others were live studio and live outdoor studio recordings. In all of these settings the engineering was superb, although a couple of tracks could have had the hurdy-gurdy pushed forward in the mix a little. However, the blend is never such as to obscure the hurdy-gurdy, and the sense of interplay between the two musicians is never crushed by the mix.

Overall, Zykado is a thoroughly enjoyable sonic exploration of two remarkably fertile musical minds. - Erik Keilholtz

This CD available from Amazon.com
Other recordings by Mattias Loibner are available from cdRoots

Other recordings in this review series:
Les maîtres de la vielle baroque - French Music for Hurdy-Gurdy
Les Eclairs de Musique: Les Saisons Amusantes
Matthias Loibner: Vielle à roué
Nataŝa Mirković – De Ro and Matthias Loibner: Ajvar & Sterz

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