The most gratifying thing about The Berlin Series no. 1
is that it seems to be the first of many Another Timbre releases featuring musicians based in Berlin. Given the vibrancy of the city's music scene, it has become a magnet for improvising musicians from across the world. As one of them, French sound artist Olivier Toulemonde has observed, "Berlin is a jungle of improvised music... I would recommend Berlin to anyone who wants to meet a new musician every day. Berlin is an incredible city with a huge improvised scene. And I have to say that it's easy to meet musicians and work with them, probably easier than elsewhere." The truth of these words is evidenced by the huge numbers of fine improvisers based there and the many collaborations that begin there. Plenty of excellent releasesnotably on the Berlin-based Absinth
labelalready document the city's music, but the prospect of more on Another Timbre is mouth-watering. The Berlin Series no. 1
is a split CD which features two separate but highly compatible duos, each combining clarinet with less conventional musical sounds that provide an effective contrast. First up is "Inframince," a forty-three minute duo between German clarinetist Michael Thieke
(maybe best known for his work alongside fellow clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski
in The Magic I.D.
and in the duo The International Nothing) and Toulemonde who plays acoustic objects. These are objects from everyday life; Toulemonde doesn't build anything or construct an instrument out of objects. Instead, he simply make noises with objects that he finds, such as whisks, bowls, plates, marbles, styrofoam, antennae, spinning-tops, springs, metal rods... In addition to the sounds that list may conjure up in the imagination, Toulemonde manages to generate a range of sounds which could just as easily have been made by percussion or electronics; most importantly, those sounds complement Thieke's clarinet but remain distinguishable from it, so that the two fit together seamlessly, and the means of production soon become of secondary importance compared to the pleasure of the listening experience the music gives. The track's forty-three minutes are easy to become submerged in, and pass by so effortlessly that, once they are done, the obvious course of action is to repeat the experience. Yes, mesmerising stuff.
The second track, "Immensity," is a worthy companion piece to its predecessor. It pairs the Argentinean bass clarinetist Lucio Capece
a Berlin resident since 2004with analogue synthesiser played by Canada-born Jamie Drouin who, until 1999, was a visual artist. According to Drouin, such free movement between mediums, and collaborations across genres are typical of Berlin. As with Thieke and Toulemonde, the sounds produced work well together; the undulating rise and fall of Capece's sustained bass clarinet tones are offset by the white noise hiss and glitches that Drouin produces, creating a soundscape that evolves slowly without any nasty surprises but remains rich in detail and variety. The resulting album is an effective pairing of tracks which fit together well. On this showing, we must hope that this Berlin Series will run and run for a long time.