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Ejnar KANDING (b. 1965)
Frank BRETSCHNEIDER (b. 1956)
A Different Kind of Tension (2012) [6:06]
Auxiliary Blue (2008) [37:53]
Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms (2007) [9:06]
Contemporánea
rec. November 2012, Hildebrand Studio & Mallorca Studios, Copenhagen.
DACAPO 8.226540 [53:11]

This is a fascinating disc which represents a collaboration between two nations: Germany in the shape of Frank Betschneider, and Denmark with Ejnar Kanding. This symbiosis is an interaction of opposites; at a basic level seeing each composer create new music out of scores by the other.
 
Made in association with percussionist David Hildebrandt, the opening track A Different Kind of Tension is downright funky, using percussion samples and electronic sounds to create a world somewhere between Frank Zappa in ‘Jazz from Hell’ mode, Boris Blank and an itchy Iannis Xenakis. It used to be harder to find pulse in contemporary electronic music than something yellow in a bowl of custard but anything goes these days, and this kind of sheer physical abandon is refreshing indeed.
 
Auxiliary Blue is by far the longest work here, divided into 11 tracks which play continuously, from the slow march of the opening into a variety of gorgeously mysterious atmospheres and elongated and often understatedly dramatic events. Repetition is a strong feature of the music, which lends it a ritualistic air. Instruments and electronic layers and effects mix and blend in equal measure, the latter often being initiated by the former. I like the feeling that this music on occasion seems liberated from serious intent, and there are some possibly serendipitous moments of amusing wit, though this may just be my subversive association set at work. The only effect which is perhaps a little over-used is the ‘click’ or crackle which is either digging into your brain or covering the music like caul over a haggis. Transparent, nuanced, full of variation, with a tight structure and plenty of skilled musicianship, this is the kind of piece which keeps the imagination awake from beginning to end.
 
Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms also has this ticking going on the whole time. I thought ditching LP records had done away with this irritating sound for good. What this layer does in this case is keep a driving pace to the rhythm, under which a variety of enigmatic and initially apparently mechanistic sounds flow and either keep pace or form a sonic counterpoint to the beat. These low sonics are in fact transformations of orchestral sounds take from a piece by Ejnar Kanding called Vergeuder der Schmerzen or ‘Squanderer of Pains’. Glimpses of the melancholy nature of this work occasionally shine through, though the nature of the sounds as orchestral is so removed from context as to render it into something new and strange.
 
This collaborative project has delivered some intriguing and stimulating work, and I commend this to anyone looking for some contemporary music with a bit of subtle ‘oomph’.
 
Dominy Clements