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Polwechsel: Archives of the North (2006)

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Polwechsel: Archives of the North No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

In a world based largely on solo and duo work and chance collaborations, Polwechsel and poire_z were supergroups. The quiet flutters of electronics and acoustic instruments can be hard enough to keep fresh and engaging for two performers, but often times larger groups just blur the whole creation—becoming more like a mud puddle than a cloud. If AMM are the forebears of the quiet improv scene (and they are), Polwechsel and poire_z were the proudest sons.

By 2004, however, both groups had disbanded, leaving a hole in the European version of onkyo. The members continued to work, of course, but for followers it was something like the Stones had broke up at the same time as the Beatles. Sure, we still had the Kinks, but...

Happily, Polwechsel, originally formed in 1993, has returned with its third lineup and fifth release, one every bit as strong as its excellent, sometimes hard to find predecessors. The group's founders, cellist Michael Moser and bassist Werner Dafeldecker, remain, as does saxophonist John Butcher, who replaced trombonist Radu Malfatti in 1997. The five tracks on Archives of the North (ranging from five to fifteen minutes) are immediately recognizable as Polwechsel sound—sustained, breathy scrapes and tones punctuated very occasionally by discrete bass occurrences.

But the surprise this time, with the departure of guitarist Burkard Stangl, is that the group now has two percussionists. For such a soft and abstract ensemble, drums would seem a detriment, but Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr approach the group with an orchestral sense. There are more abrupt moments here than on previous discs, but then Revolver was hardly Beatles for Sale, either. The group has grown in breadth and dynamic—and for the better, if only because sitting still is never an improvement.

Track Listing: Datum Cut; Mirror; Core Cut; Magnetic North; Site And Setting

Personnel: Burkhard Beins: drums, percussion; Martin Brandlmayr: drums, percussion; John Butcher: tenor and soprano saxophones; Werner Daveldecker: double bass; Michael Moser: cello, computer.

Record Label: Hatology

Style: Modern Jazz


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