Second album from acoustic free improv virtuoso Olaf Rupp. Bet he's got sore fingers...
Bill Tilland 2002-12-09
German guitarist Rupp plays acoustic instruments exclusively on this solo CD, and initially, his work might bring to mind another underground favourite, Steffen Basho-Junghans.
Indeed, common points of reference do exist. Basho-Junghans favors hypnotic, repetitive chords, loaded with overtones and harmonics. Rupp follows that formula on one piece ("#7"), where a single chord is struck rhythmically and repeatedly, creating a buzzing, amorphous cloud of overtones.
But in general Scree dazzles with jagged runs of dissonant note clusters and chords, often suggesting a species of turbocharged, wayward flamenco and "outside" classical guitar, mixed with a some elements of traditional Chinese music (particularly for the pipa, an ancient four-stringed lute).
Rupp played an electric Fender Stratocaster on his debut recording, Life Science, but his intensity on this CD clearly doesn't suffer as a result of unplugging. In fact, hearing all of this energy electrified might be way too much of a good thing.
"Scree" is defined as "a mass of debris comprising loose fragments of rock," and the twelve pieces on this recording do conjure up, in terms of notes, a great many small hard, inter-related objects with a dangerous latent energy.
The swarming, smothering sound of Rupp's rippling arpeggios, lightning runs and staccato chords is perhaps symbolic of some inexorable force, e.g., a tumbling avalanche of musical scree, although the force is not always in motion, and the music sometimes slips into a more reflective mode.
In fact, once Rupp's amazing tour de force digital dexterity has served its notice on the first several pieces, the silences between the notes gradually become more prominent, giving the listener a chance to take a breath and assimilate the ebb and flow of the music. Some later tracks actually invite a kind of contemplation, with the frequent use of microtones, harmonics and string damping giving some of the more subdued pieces an austere Zen Buddhist quality.
All in all, Rupp offers up an exciting, challenging CD, highly musical in the broadest sense, and a must for anyone who likes to hear an acoustic guitar pushed to its physical and aesthetic limits.