TOKAFI (Germany)


Dense, organic scrapescapes: The individual voices of the performers can clearly be discerned at every moment.
With infalable precision and all around the world, supergroups have failed to live up to people’s expectations. If you’re on a thinly populated island as remote from the rest of the planet as New Zeland, however, teaming up with the best the country and its immediate surroundings have got is simply a modus operandi. On the face of it, therefore, there was nothing special about the recording sessions leading up to this Vinyl EP in Auckland in March of 2004.

Admittedly, calling this line-up of underground actors a supergroup at all is stretching things just a tad. On the other hand, these four composers and sound sculptors have definitely all built a reputation for their uncompromising musical personality, their mushrooming and continually proliferating body of work, their decided preference for expressing themselves most clearly in collaborations and an omnivoric taste for anything that suits their visions.

All of these shared attributes can however not fully mask the gaping differences that remain. At least on paper, Mattin’s ardent noise emmissions should clash with Joel Stern’s detailed field recordings, and one could expect Anthony Guerra’s feedbacked electric guitar to come to a collision with Richard Francis’ dense, organic scrapescapes.

Surprisingly, the big bang of opposing energies never materialises. On both sides of this truly delectably packaged 7’’ lathe cut, each member of the Quartet instead treads softly and with deep mutual respect for the steadily unfolding momentum of the music. Right from from the very first second after the curtain has fallen and the performers are steeped in the sepia-tinged light of the spots, their interaction is immensely concentrated on each and every pulse, signal or tinest of noise around them.

And yet, while this reverential approach can sometimes lead to stalemates, with all players carefully avoiding shifting the balance with an unmeasured step or a sudden swing, Francis, Guerra, Stern and Mattin still maintain a relentless urge to push forward. Their tracks move from deep, distorted bass ruminations to more airy drones, developping continually within a nervous continuum. It’s noisy, it’s crispy, it’s glitchy, grim and granular and if you allow your attention to stray only once, you risk missing the best bits.

What’s more, despite their desire to transform into an indivisible new entity, the individual voices of the performers can clearly be discerned at every moment. As a listener, you can place your personal emphasis on any of the four personalities or you can follow the way their voices close in on each other without ever completely melting.

The most common characteristic of a lot of improvisations, an abundance of egos, is thankfully absent from this release. There are no solos, no narcistic outbursts, no credits to any composer in the liner notes – in fact, there aren’t even copyrights attached. In defiance of the demands of the cultural tabloids, it is not an amalgam of big names but the refusal to inject the typical dose of machismo into their music which makes this a veritable supergroup.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Richard Francis
Homepage: Mattin
Homepage: Joel Stern
Homepage: Anthony Guerra
Homepage: CMR Records
By Tobias Fischer, published 2008-08-26

number 521
week 15

Something similar can be said of the 7". Recorded two years ago in Auckland, it has Richard Francis on computer, electronics, field recordings, Anthony Guerra on electric guitar, electronics, Mattin on computer feedback and Joel Stern on electronics and field recordings. Don't let Mattin scare you off in this lot: one side sounds like a thunder storm recorded from a big distance which fades gradually into a drone and the other side is at the higher end of the spectrum, but with lots of subtle crackles. It's good to see Mattin not doing so many noise things these days and become the more all-round computer musician. These four like to play things soft and controlled and its great.


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