© 2017

Strøm
X
MIKROTON CD 48 | 2016

Edition of 300

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PHYSICAL | CD

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1. Rimese
2. Erisem
3. Merise
4. Iserme
5. Xermi
6. Emries
7. Semeri

Gaudenz Badrutt electronics & analog synthesizer
Christian Müller electronics & contrabass clarinet

"X" as the unknown, "X" as a reference to time. "X" as a definite position between possibility and contingency. The album X by the Swiss band Strøm works with remix as a method, explores the potential of the origin. Or the result's? The work on the concept album started with an improvised piece by Gaudenz Badrutt (analog synthesizer) and Christian Müller (contra bass clarinet and live effects). In a process of intense live sampling by Badrutt and Müller the starting material was used again, was turned, played, twisted, cut. The result were two different pieces which were respectively remixed twice. One original, six times reworked in layers. What unfolds on the album "X" is the excitement of the beginning, of exploring the traces, of returning to the unknown. Its structure reflects the process of thinking forwards and backwards at the same time: it starts with the last remixes and ends with the first piece.

"X" frames different levels of abstraction, of focus, of examining the duo's wide range of musical languages – noise, drone, deconstruction, analog electronics and digital potential, acoustic and processed sound material. Despite the conceptual rigor, "X" is a playful and improvised, light and subtle re-interpretation and re-flection of the band's musical universe. With their 11th album, the two musicians behind Strøm propose their very own axis to map the possibilities of immediate play and the consistency of instant composing.

In 2016, Gaudenz Badrutt and Christian Müller are working together as Strøm for 15 years. Founded in 2001, the band has played numerous concerts all over Europe and realized many musical and interdisciplinary projects.

Reviews

Squid's Ear, Dave Madden:
Alvin Lucier's 1969 I Am Sitting in a Room is a display of new sonic material culled from recording a voice and recording that recording, and recording that recording, and recording that recording — and on and on. The final product shows almost nothing of the original, the piece becoming a wash of room resonance and blurry overtones. Gaudenz Badrutt (electronics and analog synthesizer) and Christian Müller (electronics and contrabass clarinet), aka strøm, took a similar approach on X, but what happened was quite the opposite: the music became clearer, larger, focused and incredibly detailed.

Born from a live jam, and then remixed myriad times and ways, X is a hybrid android beast dreamt up in a lab. "Rimese" begins with a placid drone and sci-fi sound design of blips, sputters, power-ons etc. A panning, ticking pulse is introduced before a subway-sized ostinato of various materials takes over. All hell breaks loose in the form of machine "malfunctions" and gravelly distortion; the storm of noise peels back, and we're left with insect scribbles and a pale whir. Layers of stuff start as nothing, and then grow to a point just enough to create a fierce tension as they flit across the stereo field. Switches are thrown, and the piece sputters to a halt. "Erisem" lives in a staccato world of percussive thumps and rapid start / stop ideas that manifest like TV channel changing (well if all the programs featured amplified medical contraptions and pitch-shifted frog ponds). As the work winds on, all sounds begin to disappear into the distance via reverb, and then abruptly lurch back into center for a brief coda. On "Merise" and "Xermi," the duo concentrates on forging an electric river of slow moving, glowing magma that subtly overwhelms and drags everything in the way along for the descent.

The disc follows this aesthetic until the closer, "Semeri," the first remix that the previous six remixes remix (got that?), where the feeling is almost...human. That's kind of hard to qualify, but where the previous tracks were bionic, this one pauses frequently between gestures because copy and paste and days of decision making are not available. It's not sloppy, just semi-nude, raw and fresh with breathy sounds and stunted buzzing and sudden foghorns and twitching bleeps.

In the way that Serial Composition can work well in the right hands (i.e. Babbitt, Webern), X is an example of a process setting boundaries but not letting it get in the way of — in fact fostering — a really neat result.

(And I just noticed that the first letter of each title spells out "REMIXES." Good job, boys.)

The Sound Projector, Ed Pinsent:
strøm is the superb duo of Swiss players Gaudenz Badrutt and Christian Müller. I thought we had in the past received some of their solo releases on the Swiss Domizil label, but I must have dreamed it. At any rate Gaudenz Badrutt has surfaced a few times, as part of the group Social Insects and with Jonas Kocher on a maddening record called Strategy Of Behaviour In Unexpected Situations. Plus he played with Kocher again in the Mayakovsky Library on Rotonda, where they were joined by Ilia Belorukov. This new record may be called X (MIKROTON CD 48) and is one of a crop of new excellent improv / sound art releases we received from the Russian Mikroton label.
Where Badrutt is all electronics here, Müller does some electronics but also plays the contrabass clarinet, the forbiddingly huge instrument which is the largest member of the clarinet family. On these six tracks, strøm are capable of creating a deliciously fractured and bitty approach to electronic noise, refusing any form of lushness or pleasant surface to the sounds, and accepting only the choicest moments of compressed digital glitch and crackle into the mix. Austerity and severity are just two of the watchwords hopefully sellotaped onto their respective consoles or mixing desks. This can result in very exciting music, where the listener’s fleshy brain and listening apparatus are draped over a stainless steel structure of some sort; there’s that much power and inflexible strength to the core.
Elsewhere, there is a menacing bass drone underpinning the work which may have originated from the clarinet. Oddly enough these moments are less satisfying for some reason, and I find I derive more satisfaction from the pieces which spit out their digital juices like so much hot fat over the roasting pan. Extremely abstract music, as reflected in the plain colourfield designs of the cover artworks. But this is very far from the clean lines of Raster-Noton or other minimal-glitch work of Cologne and Vienna, and its lineage does not come from techno beats or the dancefloor.

freiStil, Andreas Fellinger:
Kurt Liedwart hat wieder einen Schwung Neuerscheinungen aus Moskau ans Licht der Öffentlichkeit gebracht, die sich allesamt durch elektronische oder von Elektronik insprierte Feinmechanik auszeichnen. So schafft er seit Jahren ein internationales Netzwerk an Musikern, seltener auch an Musikerinnen, die sich auf die konsequente Arbeit so minimalistischer wie eigensinniger Strukturen konzentrieren.
Die Schnittmenge von AMM und Angles 9 manifestiert sich im Duo Keith Rowe & Martin Küchen, dessen Debüt the bakery in den Wiener Amann Studios aufgenommen wurde. Kleine Brötchen werden hier quasi in der Mikrowelle gebacken, tonale Verschiebungen sind höchstens unter der Lupe wahrnehmbar, die Klangerzeuger entziehen sich ihrer Definition. Gitarre, Elektronik, Saxofone, Radio, i-Pod, alles wird durch gezielte Transformation seiner ursprünglichen Klangwelt enthoben. Klarheit entsteht durch Diffusion, nichts mehr hat alles zu bedeuten. Rhytmisch legen es Kurt Liedwart & Phil Raymond auf rim an, wobei hinter dem Künstlernamen von Kollegen Liedwart der Mikroton-Labelbetreiber sich verbirgt. Für seine digitalen Zwecke benutzt er im übrigen das von Klaus Filip entwickelte lloopp-Programm, mit dem u.a. auch Christof Kurzmann sein musikalisches Œvre bestreitet. Daneben bedient er die Perkussion – wie auch sein Partner Phil Raymond, der ebenfalls zusätzlich am Computer Platz nimmt.
Etwas kraftvoller gehen Norbert Möslang / Ilia Belorukov / Kurt Liedwart auf sale_interiora zur Sache. Lautstark brutzelt das Soundschnitzel, bis es dunkelbraun wird. Die Sache ist durch, wenn auch noch nicht gegessen; medium rare ist ihre Absicht gar nicht. Der Fieps darf auch bei Gaudenz Badrutt & Christian Müller reinkommen, wenn sich die beiden Eidgenossen ihre Klangpartikel unter strøm setzen. Nach kurzem Aufwärmen kommt bald Stimmung in die Bude, die Festplatten nehmen erhöhte Temperatur an, das Fieber steigt, das Heftige ersetzt das Bedächtige. Aus dem CD-Paket heraus ragt future perfect von Serge Baghdarrians / Boris Baltschun / Burkhard Beins. Ein Haufen an Gerätschaften kommt hier zum Einsatz: Mischpult, E-Gitarre, Delays, Computer, Sampler, Perkussion und Zither. Daraus fabriziert das Trio ein kompaktes Amalgam, ein schlüssiges Sammelsurium aus differenten, ausdifferenzierten Sounds. Und unsicherheitshalber wird das Cover auf Russisch gestaltet. Digitale Expeditionen aus dem besseren Russland laden zur Entdeckung ein.

Adverse Effect Magazine, Richard Johnson:
Looks like this Swiss duo, comprising electronics artists Gaudenz Dadrutt and Christian Müller, with the latter also throwing some deep bass clarinet blurts into the mix, have been furrowing their particular space in those realms where every sonic shape is battered into something abstract for almost a decade now. Over the seven cuts here, every single squelch, parp and scrunch arrives courtesy of a relentless attempt to not only get inside the noise these two guys create but to hammer it with meaning. As often the case with such work, the listener might not know exactly what it is they’re expressing or, indeed, what the narrative is, but the tension and space to be found in the interplaying illustrates more than finely honed intuition in its anticipation of a greater sense of disquiet or frustration. Any fragmentary nod towards melody or rhythm is distilled into something far removed yet kept at a level where nothing is too disturbing or unwelcome. In someone’s head, somewhere, this kinda electroacoustic dissonance is doubtlessly the modern equivalent of free jazz. I’ll never be able to claim I fully ‘get’ such music, but my door remains open to it regardless.

Bad Alchemy, Rigobert Dittmann:
Einfach nur X (mikroton cd 48) nannte das Bieler Projekt STRØM seine sieben Permutationen, generiert von Gaudenz Badrutt und Christian Müller mit Electronics & Analogsynthie bzw. (als solche aber nur bei 'Semeri' kenntliche) Kontrabassklarinette. 'Semeri' ist quasi das Original, das Ausgangsstück, das, gedreht und gewendet, sich in 'Emries' verwandelt, das wiederum zu 'Xermi' dekonstruiert wurde usw. Nur dass diese Arbeitsschritte oder Spielversionen nun umgekehrt erklingen. Also mit 'Rimese' als 7. Stufe anfangen und sich Stück für Stück zu 'Semeri' entblättern. So feiert dieses Spiel das Veränderliche vorwärts und rückwärts, faltet dabei seine Methoden aus und staucht dabei die 15 gemeinsamen Jahre der beiden Schweizer zu einer Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen. Wir stecken den Kopf in ihr Elektronenkabinett, das nach allerhand Blasenkammergehusche als Ganzes zu pulsieren beginnt. Wobei es in seinem Innern weiter flippert und prasselt. Es wird versucht, zur Laborroutine zurück zu finden, aber es pulst und saust weiter, mahlend und turbulent. Klangmoleküle begegnen einem als plastische Körper in Brownscher Bewegung, als zwitschernde Gesellen mit Lust auf Bodychecks. Erratische Kürzel reißen Luftlöcher, poltern und glitchen als mikroskopische Steinlawinen, brüten heimlichtuerisch, rumpeln und glitzern. Prägnant wie in Ultrazeitlupe, dabei aber wie zeitgerafft blitzend. Dann pingen sie über dröhnendem Fond und erscheinen als Kollektiv nach jeder Mutation so verwandelt, als ob zwar kaum ein Haar der Vorstufe erhalten bliebe und dennoch markante, von der Stammmutter vererbte Züge ständig wiederkehren.

Vital Weekly, Frans de Waard:
The word 'Strøm' means electricity and for Gaudenz Bradutt (electronics, analog synthesizer) and Christian Müller (electronics, contrabass clarinet), that may cover what they do, well, save, perhaps, the contrabass clarinet of course, which may not need electrical power. They already worked together as Strøm for fifteen years and they have played all over Europe and two of their previous releases where reviewed before (see Vital Weekly 682 and 836). I thought both previous release to be all right, but I found it on the safe side of improvised music. This new work, recorded in 2014 and 2015 shows Strøm in a less safe place, which works all the better for the end result I think. There is throughout quite an electronic feel to the music, much more than before, and it hisses and stutters all over the place. Maybe one could say there is a noise edge to the music, but that is over doing things. The music is certainly forceful and vibrant, with quite some intensity in the dynamic range. Maybe this has something to do with the origin of the material. I understand one of these pieces is the original and the other six are 'reworkings' of that, using extensively live sampling; maybe that explains the somewhat hit 'n scratch approach some of these piece have and that works quite well. It's a dynamic work of improvised musique concrete approaches, and so far their best album.