Annette Krebs/Toshimaru Nakamura SIYU (SoSEDITIONS)

I have spoken at length about the transformation of Annette Krebs in my discussion of Berlin Electronics and of the recent work of Toshimaru Nakamura in my review of One Day, so it is interesting to hear these two in collaboration.  The question of timing is of course important; Krebs has really come into her own in the last few years and Nakamura has been in a certain state of flux for the same.  So it isn’t overly surprising that SIYU was recorded in 2005. At this period of time I’d say that Nakamura was at the height of his game, in the midst of a series of amazing and innovative collaborations: Erstlive 005, Erstlive 002, 4G, a duo with Sean Meehan, the next year would bring between(1). At the same time this was the end of Kreb’s period of isolation and her process of reinvention from which her current stream of great collaborations have come from.  From the artist page for this release on the SoS Editions site:

since 2003, she has worked to combine composed musical sounds with layers of concrete meanings, including word and visual materials. in her pieces, all materials are composed in a very equal and abstract way; the possible decorative function of sound is averted.

similar to an acoustic collage, fragments of language, words and field recordings are integrated as musical materials together with tonal and rhythmical abstract composed sounds, noises and silences. concrete meanings, fragments of memory are sometimes softly suggested, and then reintegrated immediately, as reminders of short fragments of thought in the abstract soundlanguage.

musical hierarchical structures, foreground and background, exist in her pieces in a mostly fluid form; they can appear for a short moment, however, immediately disappear again into each other, framed together like images in a kaleidoscope. seconds later, they reveal themselves in other combinations, in new, surprising ways. (2)

This description (which oddly I hadn’t seen before writing this) pretty much puts into words exactly what I’ve been hearing in her music. It also confirms that this strategy and system has come from that post 2003 period. The “samples” I’ve mentioned before are these composed elements and clearly the use of pre-composed vocal elements is a major component of this ‘abstract soundlanguage‘ she is working with. The “…possible decorative function of sound is averted.” shows an adherence to the Cagean notion of letting the sounds speak for themselves (or perhaps reflecting Feldmans intention that you can’t push the sounds around).  Her techniques and subsequent sound are a direct reflection of this statement: her sounds come and go, rarely lingering, you can definitely sense an equal weight to all sounds and there is always surprise there, even to the performer it appears when you witness a Krebs performance.

The disc contains two tracks, both created in 2005, the first, longer track having been previously released on Kreb’s self-released CD-R Various Projects 2003-2005(3).  While so much of that CD-R presaged Krebs work to come (the solo material invoking Berlin Electronics, the duo with Heyward) this track was the real standout.  The CD-R was never easy to get a hold of and in that alone this disc was incredibly welcome, but the addition of the second, short track from the same session really promoted this into a fantastic release.  While half the length of the previous track the second track acts as both a second movement and coda to it and makes for a whole that transcends its two parts.  They are both great as solo pieces but together I think that make for a complete piece.

Wrr finds Nakamura deep in background territory which in this case compliments Krebs’ style of interjections and bursts of activity.  The track begins in stasis with a background hiss from Nakamura and within the first couple of minutes you hear brillo pad on Krebs’ guitar, a shot of her tweaked vocal samples, some radio and other bits of sonic clutter.  Nakamura simply responds with a mid-range pure tone, backed with a lower drone that this activity rises out of.  They aren’t wildly off in dynamic range which keeps this from seeming two aggressive and as Krebs always puts these bursts of activity into wide spaces it never gets overly dense and busy. But as she drops out Nakamura subtly changes his sounds – for instance that mid-range tone just discussed was slowly rising in volume until the point where Krebs drops out, to which he responds by backing it off. This is brilliant interplay in that he didn’t just drop out in kind but he changed the texture in response to her dropping out.  This track all works like that, with Nakamura taking the lead in a real subtle way. That is to say that Krebs more or less does what she would do solo and it is the collaborative aspect that is driven by Nakamura’s playing. He works a lot with continuous sound in this piece, but he mixes it up enough that his sounds are quite textured.  The near static parts are always my favorite in this where there seems to be almost nothing going on but maybe a subdued hiss, or a low background hum and then little burbling radio grabs, higher pitched tones, bleats of static or short cut off bit of vocals.  But in the more intense parts there is a lot to hear as well: washes of static, swarms of bees, ringing tones, cutting feedback.  In interplay with Krebs diversity of sounds, both in character as well as in dynamics this is a varied and intricate collaboration that pulls me in every time I listen.

Brr, begins with a low rumble from Nakamura to which shortly a vacillating tone is brought in contrast against. An oddly hollow scraping sound flutters across the stereo field as the oscillating tone comes up only to be replaced by a brief moment of feedback. Burst of radio static and then a return to stasis. Like the previous track this quick series of events comes in and out quickly, never shockingly, but again restlessness pitted above stasis. But unlike the first track this stasis from Nakamura doesn’t last; he works with longer events but is constantly shifting in this piece. Although it is shorter than the previous piece this one is a constant miasma of sound, layers of washes, sudden bursts of feedback, and moments of silence with only a faint trace of hiss probably from inactive electronics.  This activity from Nakamura, though at a dramatically lower level, than Krebs gives this whole piece a feel of sands shifting under ones feet: there is no solid ground on which to rest. In the end though this piece transforms into a shift decrease in activity; still never falling into stasis but the events from both partners are more drawn out and low energy as if they were fading out through self-editing.

1) Toshimaru Nakamura Discography
2) SOS Editions Artist Pages
3) Annette Krebs’ CD-R Various Projects 2003-2005