Grosse Abfahrt — Vanity (Emanem, 2009)
I’ve been fighting a cold, getting lots of rest — which robs me of my usual late-night music listening time. Haven’t been able to give this album a good listen. Luckily, you can read the review in the East Bay Express!
The band’s name means “great departure” in German, but given Tom Djll‘s penchant for wordplay, you’re allowed to giggle. It’s an electroacoustic improvising group with a rotating cast of characters that usually has an ear for the power of subtle, silent passages.
A Grosse Abfahrt session can have plenty of loud segments but there are usually some stretches, or some entire pieces, built of tiny electronics whistles and small creaks and whispers from the acoustic instruments. Their first album, Erstes Luftschiff Zu Kalifornien on Creative Sources, had a lot of moments along those lines, hearing-test electronics tones matched by small, indiscernible sounds.
G.A. consists of a five-player core that never varies, complemented by a handful of other players (just two in this case; up to seven in others) who haven’t performed with the group before. Usually one or two of those players comes from Europe; in fact, my impression had always been that G.A. was a blanket name for a series of Euro-U.S. meetups.
This Wednesday’s session will include German trumpeter Birgit Ulher and local oboist Kyle Bruckmann joining the core team of five: John Shiurba (guitar), Matt Ingalls (clarinet), Gino Robair (percussion/theremin/whatever), Tim Perkis (laptop electronics), and leader Djll (trumpet).
The core five are quite used to Bruckmann and Ulher, so it should be a solid evening of improvising.
As for Vanity — the name refers to vanity license plates, which is where the tracks get their titles — it brings G.A. into new territory, as the added musicians are Matthieu Werchowski (viola/violin), David Chiesa (double bass), and Theresa Wong (cello). Strings, in other words, and it’s hard not to notice their presence; on a surface listen, they give the band a new texture and a bit more of a classical edge. It’s a nice departure.