Available on twelve-inch 45rpm vinyl or as a download, Secrets is the debut album from the duo of Seamus Cater and Kai Fagaschinski, released after six years of secluded, painstaking work. Alongside Michael Thieke, Fagaschinski is half of the renowned clarinet duo The International Nothing, and he is also a member of the innovative clarinets-plus-vocals quartet The Magic I.D. As heard on the YouTube clip below, The International Nothing is featured on a previous Cater album, the song-based The Three Things You Can Hear (Nearly Not There Records, 2016), as were Konzert Minimal members, violist Johnny Chang, bassist Koen Nutters and percussionist Morten, J. Olsen, a hint of Cater's link to Wandelweiser, other hints being that Cater played concertina on the recording of Antoine Beuger's Ockeghem Octets (Another Timbre, 2017), and was a featured artist at Wandelweiser's annual Klangraum festival, in Dusseldorf, in July & August 2019. Secrets comprises eight tracks ranging in length from one-and-a-half minutes to just over six. The Cater-Fagaschinski collaboration is a collective process where all the music is composed together in the same room; no advance sketches are used, no strategies established; every piece is the result of exploration, needing a different logic and requiring its own form; the pair employ a method of proposal and counter proposal, with pieces evolving over hours, weeks, months or years as the two combine tones and refine sounds. Fagaschinski plays clarinet throughout, providing a foundation to each track. In addition to voice and concertina, Cater adds Rhodes piano and re-tuned harmonica. While the eight tracks hang together well as an album, they are not easily pigeonholed or labelled; they do contain enough telltale signs to be clearly attributable to Cater and Fagaschinski. Four of the eight feature Cater's vocals and are alternated with those which are solely instrumental. The ones with vocals are not all songs per se, having neither verses nor choruses, each line being sung once only. On "Blasphemy," employing long, sustained notes which reveal considerable vocal talent and skill, Cater takes over ninety seconds to sing the phrase, "the only sacred thing to me is blasphemy," beautifully accompanied by Fagaschinski's mellow clarinet. In contrast, "The Dot Before the I" is a wryly amusing spoken-word recitation which casts Cater in the role of children's television presenter, or maybe actual children's teacher. As with other vocal tracks, its instrumental passages are as good as some of the instrumental pieces. The instrumental tracks themselves exhibit a pattern that is so often a promising sign: the longer they last, the better they sound. The album's two longest tracks, "The Philosopher" and "The Barrel Organ," although quite different are also its best; tellingly, they conclude the two sides of the record. Although Secrets only plays for thirty-three minutes altogether, there is more than enough fine music here to demonstrate that Cater and Fagaschinski's creative methodology succeeds handsomely. We must hope that they are at work on a follow-up... and that it will not take another six years to appear.
As We Destroyed the Band; The 26th of March; Blackout; The Philosopher; Blasphemy; Clarinet and Concertina; The Dot Before the I; The Barrel Organ.
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