Eberhard Weber bass, tarang
Bonnie Herman voice
Norma Winstone voice
Gary Burton vibraharp, marimba
Bill Frisell guitar, balalaika
Recorded January 1979 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
As the wind freshened from the south, the red and yellow beech leaves rasped together with a brittle sound, harsher than the fluid rustle of earlier days. It was a time of quiet departures, of the sifting away of all that was not staunch against winter.
–Richard Adams, Watership Down
Although with Fluid Rustle, Eberhard Weber continued to draw upon the Watership Down references that cast 1977’s Silent Feet into such lovely relief, I hesitate to call it program music. Neither are the titles mere frames; they are also the open windows within those frames. Like the rabbits in Adams’s novel, each instrument in “Quiet Departures” is its own vivid personality in a vast warren of possibilities. Such strong metaphorical ties are there to be unraveled, one fiber at a time, by every strike of Gary Burton’s vibes. The introduction of Norma Winstone (in her first non-Azimuth ECM appearance) and Bonnie Herman represents an exciting tectonic shift in Weber’s geology, urging us through an atmospheric tunnel. At its end: a brightly lit solo from Burton, swaying comfortably in Weber’s hammock. This piece beguiles like déjà vu over a buoyant electric guitar (courtesy of Bill Frisell), voices returning on the syllable “Na” for a Tehillim-like consistency. Further textural detail is provided by the twang of the tarang, an Indian banjo played by Weber himself. As Burton switches to marimba, we find ourselves between two electric guitars, throwing sonic confetti from either side, before Weber plunges us into the depths of the title track and its ecstatic dreaming. “A Pale Smile” is a hallucinatory wash of guitars and vibes that works its magic with a Laurie Anderson feel. Weber also has a quiet, heartfelt solo here. “Visible Thoughts” carries us out on a bowed bass laced with percussive breathing and whispers. Painting syncopations with a broader brush, the group fades in an ever-tightening braid of wordless breathing until we are left dry.
The album’s title would seem to characterize the sound and effect of Eberhard Weber’s music in one fell swoop. His presence is felt here more melodically than instrumentally, as he chooses just the right moments to foreground his unfettered sound. And while the absence of keyboardist Rainer Brüninghaus marks a noticeable change in density, it also allows voices that have always been there to emerge from the woodwork and shine.