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Reinhold Friedl Xenakis (A)live Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

...a fierce collision between Xenakis’s still extraordinary atomised soundscapes

Michael Quinn 2007

Reinhold Friedl’s dark-hewn ‘impressionistic tribute’ to electro-acoustic pioneer Iannis Xenakis is not, by any means, an easy listen, but it is absolutely compelling.

Across a single movement marginally short of an hour, Friedl, with the fearsomely realised assistance of 10-piece German ensemble, Zeitkratzer, pays homage to classic Xenakis compositions, all primarily studio-generated sounds, by using amplified acoustic instruments to re-imagine the dense, steely, mathematical latticework of its architecture.

The result is a fierce collision between Xenakis’s still extraordinary atomised soundscapes, the altogether more corporeal signature of Friedl himself and the vigorous visceral commitment of self-styled ‘post-everything chamber orchestra’ Zeitkratzer.

It lends a degree of understanding of intent and execution to know that ‘Zeitkratzer’ translates as ‘time scraper’. Certainly these intensely dramatic performances feel for all the world as if they are excavating not just through the accretions of time but also through layers of flesh and bone in search of something primal and profound. Whether they find it is another matter, and some may find the route taken problematic on many levels.

There’s an eerie, unwavering, deliberately unyielding quality to Friedl’s concept and a determination on Zeitkratzer’s part not to reveal much if anything without a great deal of effort on the listener’s part.

Considered in relation to Zeitkratzer’s last release, a wild, frenetic take on Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, this new album suddenly comes a little more clearly into focus. Think of it as less intellectual homage and more emotional celebration – deliriously bristling with too many fevered and combustible ideas – and it suddenly becomes more explicable and more readily digestible. If only all musical tributes were this honest!

A bonus disc features a no less intensely realised film by the multi-media artist Lillevan. Splicing and slicing pictorial shards and fragments of film of the ancient Iranian city of Persepolis, it has a strange glowing beauty all of its own.

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