The Wire

Building Excess
By Julian Cowley
A live studio recording made on 4 July 2003 in Vienna, with Klaus Filip
using computer, Mattin supplying computer feedback, Dean Roberts on guitar
and Radu Malfatti on trombone. The music is gradual and unyielding, receding
frequently to muted plateaux of hum and sizzling static. Malfatti¹s breath
and rumble is shadowy, his gruff and introverted mumbling contrasting with
the pinpoint chromium glint of Filip¹s sinewave emissions. Mattin adds
glowering sonic roughage; Roberts is laconic and self-contained. Overall
there¹s a Beckettian sense of expression on the rocks, of the means to
communicate wrecked, shattered and pulverised, while the impulse to express
remains intact. The dynamic and provisional shape of that impulse is the
stuff of Building Excess. It¹s music making after Music; low-key affirmation
that the playing must go on.

Le sin rocks 

 Certes, il s’agit d’une œuvre collective interprétée par des musiciens dont on a l’impression qu’ils jouent ensemble depuis longtemps (alors qu’il n’en est rien). Certes, le travail sur les textures électroniques de Klaus Filip et Mattin apporte une touche singulière. Mais ce sont indéniablement les conceptions du tromboniste Radu Malfatti qui guident tout le monde, car pour le moins radicales, et parmi les plus extrêmes à l’heure actuelle avec celles de Taku Sugimoto, elles n’ont apparemment aucun mal à s’imposer tant elles ne supporteraient pas les compromis.

Bien qu’il se défende d’être le père spirituel d’une nouvelle scène berlinoise, versée comme lui dans l’impro minimale (Annette Krebs, Andrea Neumann, etc.), Radu Malfatti a aussi été catalogué parrain du "réductionnisme", une étiquette qui lui déplaît et désigne son refus de beaucoup de pratiques codifiées. Que l’on partage ou non son point de vue minimal, on admirera chez lui son positionnement – à l’opposé des expérimentations souvent développées dans pareil cadre, et basées seulement sur la puissance et la rapidité. Grand admirateur de John Cage, Erik Satie et Morton Feldman, il préfère s’intéresser, et ses comparses avec lui, à l’importance du silence dans l’articulation entre forme et structure, ainsi qu’aux micro-sonorités qui peuvent en naître, quand on prend le temps de les laisser surgir.

Même si, à la longue, des œuvres de ce genre sont, comme les autres, guettées par une certaine routine, on reconnaîtra, au moins le temps de ce Building Excess de haute volée, qu’elles peuvent posséder des vertus puissamment envoûtantes. N’est probablement pas étranger à cette sensation Dean Roberts, le quatrième musicien de l’album, guitariste branché par le post-rock – qu’il a pratiqué au sein du combo néo-zélandais Thela –, et qui produit ici ses accords planants.
Philippe Robert

Gaffa (Denmark)

Dato: 23/8-2004
“Shh! Hvad fanden er det, der siger den lyd?” vil være et hyppigt spørgsmål fra folk i det rum, hvor Building Excess afspilles. Og det lige meget, om de ved, at CD-afspilleren kører eller ej. Pladen er nemlig noget af de mest lavmælte og underspillede, man kan tænke sig, og består af ét improviseret track med en varighed på 51’56”. De fire gutter, der har lavet det, står henholdsvis for computer, guitar, computer feedback og trombone - ergo: ting, der kunne lave en helvedes larm, men her istedet er rekvisitter til et studie i tilbageholdenhed. Det meste af tiden er kvartettens output nemlig en sagte summen, hylen eller elektronisk knitren. Først halvt inde på pladen aner man noget tilnærmelsesvist melodisk, hvor et par melankolske guitartoner ringer over en lys elektronisk klang. Det lyder måske ret banalt, men koncentrerer man sig, er pladen en lille åbenbaring. Man tvinges til at lytte efter de mindste forskydelser i lydbilledet og får en spændende, intim oplevelse i bytte. Building Excess kræver således tålmodighed, men er indsatsen værd.




number 432


week 30


Although this is a four piece improvisation, it's the elderly

statesman of improvised music that inspires the recording: Radu

Malfatti, a trombone player with a free jazz background, but

currentely playing very quiet improvised music, has a decisive

influence over the other players. Mattin on his computer feedback,

Dean Roberts on guitar and Klaus Filip, the unknown one for me in

this quartet on computer. As said, Malfatti's ideas about quiet music

is very strong here. Most of the time nothing much seems to be

happening here. Very silent stuff, with some occassional tones here

and there. When they happen they are usually sustained ones, until

they die out after a while. Just very occassionally something more

happens, just around the thirty-fifth minute, but those eruptions are

only short. This is a recording of a highly delicate nature, which

forces the listener to pay attention throughout. There is a lot of

things happening here, but one should concentrate to find them out as

they all appear on a small, microscopic level. Great minimalist but

powerful recording here.


Touching Extremes (Italy)

I realize I'm listening to a milestone whenever I can hear sounds coming out of every small corner of my room, like they were silent creatures invisibly giving me their hand while heartbeats slow down and breath is almost stretched into stillness. Klaus Filip and Mattin's computers are - paradoxically - a sort of guideline in the mist raised by Radu Malfatti, whose trombone is sanctified by the attention to textural speleology only this man is capable of. Dean Roberts' few statements deliver telluric news to silence, imposing their presence for a while before laying on the ground in a fantastic mimetism with the computers' feedbacks and elongated drones by Mattin and Filip. For long moments one could be justified in his giving up to any physical activity, just to aspirate these ceaseless sonic wonders; but the manners in which this music finally takes control over everything else cannot be told by any word. I pity the unlucky people who won't share this listening experience, or whose ears are still deaf to the evolution of broken silence. Massimo Ricci

Paris Transatlanctic
Two months before Whitenoise was recorded in September 2003, Malfatti and Mattin teamed up with Klaus Filip (computer) and Dean Roberts (guitar), once more in Christoph Amann's studios in Vienna (which is rapidly becoming for labels like Grob and Erstwhile what Tonstudio Bauer was to ECM), to record a single span of music just under 52 minutes long entitled Building Excess. On the face of it that might seem a curious title for a disc of quintessentially slowmoving and quiet eai (yes kids I guess we're stuck with the term), and perhaps it's intended to refer to the proliferation of high rise office and apartment blocks (in Tokyo) depicted in Mattin's photography, but I'm tempted to read it another way. Face it folks, there's a lot of this stuff about these days, and if you've already shelled out hard currency on copies of Keith Rowe's stuff with Oren Ambarchi (on Grob and Staubgold), or the new Erstwhiles (see above) or last year's Absinth (also on Grob) or the Meeting at Off Site series on IMJ or.. (need we go on?) you are either a) an eai nut in which case you'll probably rush out and buy this one too or b) penniless. It's rather surprising to find Malfatti, someone who's frequently cautioned against stagnation in improvised music and a musician who's managed to remain outside of established "schools" and pushed the silence envelope about as far as it can go with Futatsu, his IMJ duo with Taku Sugimoto, on board for this one. Don't get me wrong: this is a very likeable disc, beautifully paced and exquisitely recorded and mixed, but we've been along this river before (go back to Werner Dafeldecker and Christian Mühlbacher's Diphtongs (Durian, 1997), or Roberts and Dafeldecker's Aluminium (Erstwhile, 2000)) and though it'd be unfair to describe the waters on Building Excess as stagnant, they're flowing slowly enough for you to see your reflection clearly. DW


Building Excess


Sessions that seem to be simultaneously ambient and experimental, these CDs are part of a pan-European genre that doesn't distinguish between noise and silence, and makes no distinction between the output of computers or acoustic instruments.

Dates like these, that submerge the individuality of the players far more than did the music of, say, the Modern Jazz Quartet or AMM, have as their proponents younger players who grew up with binary code and e-mail. The anomaly here is Austrian trombonist Radu Malfatti. A London-based Free Jazzer, from the 1970s to the 1990s, he played with among others, the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. For the past half-dozen years or so though, he's rejected conventional trombone tone for microtonal breaths and gasps, punctuated by prolonged silent pauses. He's so rigid in this outlook, that reductionist band Polwechel wasn't restrained enough in its output to keep him on board.

In this way, WHITENOISE, his 42-minute duo with Basque laptopper Mattin, who plays in Sakada with AMM's percussionist Eddie Prévost and collaborates with others, offers more scope to hear -- or perhaps feel -- Malfatti's MO. In contrast, although it's about 10 minutes longer and adds two musicians -- New Zealand guitarist Dean Roberts on the acoustic side and Viennese computer and digital electronics expert Klaus Filip on the electric one -- BUILDING EXCESS really only builds on that foundation.

There are so many silences on both CDs that sometimes you feel like a train spotter, forced to obsessively note exactly when the silence is broken by sound -- and its duration. WHITENOISE, for instance, is divided into two tracks of roughly the same length, with the second piece offering more textural differences.

Among the constant rhythmic rumbles that may be from a sequencer or static, are identifiable ascending tones from the trombonist, playing without pressing the valves or moving the slide. Eventually, with spaces for silence, these microtones blossom into mechanical-sounding glissandi, mouthpiece pressure and a variation of circular breathing.

Simultaneously Mattin creates oscillating loops that evolve from summer rainfall sounds to louder and more abrasive static waveforms. Three-quarters of the way through, there's a hyper-extended set of exhalations from the 'bone that one minute later is followed by a few seconds of buzzing, electronic flutters and squeals that subside into motor-driven roars. Malfatti forces out sibilant air then a razzy tone as Mattin's electronics replicate a rain shower. Briefly, buzzes and shrill notes predominate, until the oscillations dissolve into individual sound molecules, then into silence.

Except for unidentified escaping air flutters and clenched throat exhibitions by the trombonist, plus some grating electrical current computer movement, WHITENOISE's first piece is somewhat similar to the second. Furthermore, despite the addition of two players, BUILDING EXCESS also sounds somewhat similar to the first disc, with its title a misnomer if there ever was one.
Taking up nearly 52 minutes, and recorded two months before the duo CD, at first its tumbrel vocabulary seems to consist of machine pulsation, cylindrical computer rumbles, surface noises flutters and what sounds like a triggered sequence of a single string guitar strum. After this, a shrill low-intensity digital buzz slowly comes into focus meeting the crackle of static and what is probably the whistle of a ring modulator. Soon a stentorian lick -- perhaps from the lowest string of Roberts' guitar -- reverberates. Before a repeated, slow-paced guitar strum is sounded a couple of minutes later, Malfatti's expelling of unrestricted air has been heard. A sideband drone later gives way to what could be termed a balladic interlude made up of slurred guitar frails, dense, sequenced sound loops and a few brass mouthpiece breaths and tonguing.

Midway through, the echoing, repetitive pulsation breaks up into different pitches and takes on an accompanying identity of its own. It's rather like the way AMM subtly advances a hardly-there continuum as it plays. Guitar flanges and cricket-like tones whistle loudly, then fade to almost complete silence within a minute. Among the smears of computer feedback, digital electronics tones and what sounds like someone using whisks on drum tops, is a distinctive metallic overtone from the trombonist. After a resonating buzz extends a single guitar strum, both computer and feedback begin rumbling until abruptly cut off, as if a switch had been turned.

Intimations of short-wave radio tuning signals and beeps then vie for aural space with tumbleweed wind whispers and the underlying faint sound of a computer fan and motor gradually get louder. Resonant buzzes from the two computers take on jet plane-like roars. Cut with crackling hisses, those tones soon fades to silence.

Long-time followers of Malfatti's Free Jazz work and Roberts' time with post-rock bands should probably stay clear of these discs. Microtonal electro-acoustians will be more favorably disposed. Intriguing in the same way as the viewing of a inert, uncut film of a desert vista, the two CDs must be minutely probed to reveal their cloaked charms.

-- Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Whitenoise: 1. Whitenoise One 2. Whitenoise Two

Track Listing: Building: 1. Building Excess

Personnel: Whitenoise: Radu Malfatti (trombone); Mattin (computer feedback)

Personnel: Building: Radu Malfatti (trombone); Dean Roberts (guitar); Mattin (computer feedback); Klaus Filip (computer and digital electronics)

Le son du grisli
Guillaume Belhomme

Vienne, 4 juillet 2003. En studio, Klaus Filip, Radu Malfatti, Mattin et Dean Roberts s’essayent à une expérience électroacoustique qui pourrait bien changer les habitudes de l’audition commune. La guitare électrique de Roberts pèsera ses notes claires avant de les distribuer, les ordinateurs de Filip et Mattin dérouleront leur lot d’oscillations et de craquements, perturbations dont se nourrira le trombone – en filigrane plus qu’en sourdine – de Malfatti.

Dans une machine volante, le groupe progresse et prend possession de l’espace qui l'environne. C’est son transport que l’on entend et aussi les territoires qui concèdent et chantent, l’un après l’autre, avoir été découverts. Le silence suit, puis ce sont quelques souffles qui disent leur blancheur. Autant que de minces larsens ils font maintenant la bande-son de l’architecture élevée en quelques minutes, différente de celle qui sera déposée sur la couverture du digipack – éternel fantasme de modernité sortie de la cassure et colporteuse de froid, que tord l’association à bras le son.


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