Philipp Wachsmann/Paul Lytton: Some Other Season (ECM 1662)

Philipp Wachsmann
Paul Lytton
Some Other Season

Philipp Wachsmann violin, viola, live electronics
Paul Lytton percussion, live electronics
Recorded October 1997 at Hardstudios, Winterthur
Engineer: Martin Pearson
Produced by Steve Lake

Following one untouchable duo with another, producer Steve Lake and engineer Martin Pearson fly ECM’s banner into further uncharted waters. Taking the label’s exploratory spirit to heart, they bring us Some Other Season. Last heard among the roaring mitochondria of Toward The Margins, here Philipp Wachsmann and Paul Lytton render that flame blue, gaseous. The two are more than experimental pioneers of their respective instruments, violin and percussion. They are, too, more than the electronic parasites that have grafted themselves so organically on to their craft.

(Photo by Peter Gannushkin)

The title of “The Re(de)fining of Methods and Means” says it all: the hermetic tinkerer must splash his craft against the earth and revel in the sounds. There is treatment to be had, to be discovered in the walls, lurking among asbestos and frayed electrical wire. It is the voice of a profound past cloaked in future guise. One can almost hear fingers tapping in the interstices, flipping signatures like fuses of the brain. In “Shuffle,” the violin sheds a skin with every utterance, stirring its accoutrements with impending fury while bells and cymbals dance in the upper atmosphere. Lytton dips “Leonardo’s Spoon” into the shadow of a painted veil, and from this ladles the prompt for Wachsmann’s solo “Choisya.” Like “The Peacock’s Tale,” it finds a choir in the single string, fanned and feathered.

(Photo by Joaquim Mendes)

This duo, then, is redefining at every turn, tapping the fractures of “Shell” to reveal the five-part “The Lightning Fields.” At its core is the ecstatic interaction of Field 3, which bubbles over into something like an Ikue Mori experiment in Field 4. Hereafter the session reveals its deepest biological secrets. From the thin, gurgling colors of “Whispering Chambers,” essential to what the album is (not) trying to achieve, to the final title track, which contrasts drones with the skittering vocabulary of finality, it rolls its tongue through a series of linguistic asterisks.

Sounding at times a hurdy-gurdy’s dream, at others a biological nightmare, Some Other Season wafts through our aortas with the wind of Luigi Nono’s La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura and the immediacy of a London Improvisers Orchestra bonfire. A scraping and gravelly spelunk into the depths of communication, it skates along the surface of consciousness with a playfulness at once mammalian and insectile. This music is four-dimensional. One can smell it burning.

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