Message Urgent - Reviews

Message Urgent TOCO42 - Trente Oiseaux !!!See!!! this record

"It's worth remembering that one of the musicians whose use of silence and extremely low dynamics proved enormously influential in the formation of a lowercase aesthetic about six or seven years ago was the German composer bernhard günter (lowercase letters his idea, not mine). Günter's debut album un peu de neige salie caused quite a stir – albeit a very quiet one – when it was first released on Selektion, though nowadays, after more than a hundred broadly similar outings by the likes of Francisco López, Marc Behrens and Steve Roden (many of them on günter's trente oiseaux label) it sounds almost classical. Intervening years have also revealed the composer's fondness for Morton Feldman, and an acute ear for pitch, and recently he's returned to improvisation – he started out as a percussionist and later studied jazz guitar – both in the +minus trio with Mark Wastell and Graham Halliwell and with this Berlin-based line-up featuring pianist Reinhold Friedl and percussionist Michael Vorfeld. Vorfeld is also credited as playing "stringed instruments", as is günter, in the form of his self-designed cellotar, which, logically enough, is a cross between a cello and a guitar. Message Urgent was recorded at Berlin's PODEWIL in November 2003 (just a couple of months after günter's exclusive interview with this magazine) and for those familiar with günter's work both as a composer and improviser, it's likely to come as something of a shock. The pregnant silences are gone, replaced instead by long strands of groaning stringy drone, bowed cymbals and Friedl's inside piano, which sounds more like one of Horatiu Radulescu's "sound icons" (vertically mounted bowed grand pianos). Indeed, if Friedl spent more time playing "traditional" prepared piano, you could be excused for thinking you were listening to AMM. Not only is the music not at all concerned with silence, it's also pretty damn intense, in terms of texture and dynamic. As we've seen above, there are several examples of music that are both lowercase and intense, but Message Urgent's occasional surges in volume, sinister seething drones and at times agitated inside piano scrabblings seem to have nothing at all to do with the genre as previously described. If this stuff is lowercase, so are Rowe, Radulescu, Niblock and Conrad. Mark Wastell is probably right: the term seems to have little meaning anymore. Never mind though what the album isn't: try listening to what it is – a gripping and beautifully paced study in tension and timbre."
(Dan Warburton, Paristransatlantic 1/05)

"This is quite a departure from the main Trente Oiseaux aesthetics of ghostly shades of uncertainty and masterful explorations of silence. Hazarding a decisive step into stringed dissonance, Friedl (inside piano) Günter (electric cellotar) and Vorfeld (stringed instruments, percussion) raise serious questions, bringing out spectral rumblings and cavernous basses, rejecting heavenward messages, replenishing the air with an abundance of evil crunching and tsunamis of vociferous fuzziness. Full of sense of incumbency, "Message urgent" speaks its language through holding back every memory, leaving a stark naked impression of some hidden threat the artists just leave at our own guessing. It's thoroughbred improvisation, impartial and dangerously sincere, depositary of an uncommon grade of crudity that's also its best value."
(Massimo Ricci, touching extremes, 9/2004)