(…) AMM guitarist Keith Rowe teaming up with Beins on Grain, whose first track is one of Rowe’s liviest performances for several years. The second track finds him in more customary static mode, while Beins sounds like he’s arc-welding while a distant thunderstorm eventually subsides into an eerie metallic calm. Beins’s work is more about friction than percussion: his masterly use of polystyrene blocks and small stones to create sustained timbres seems to have no precedent, except perhaps AMM’s Eddie Prévost, of course. The final live track is a tour de force: at first Rowe seems content to lead from the rear, his radio emerging imperceptibly from behind a cloud of cymbals, before he gradually warms up and unleashes a volley of dazzling rattles and buzzes while Beins’s close-miked bass drum cranks up the tension.
– Dan Warburton/The Wire –
Mit Keith Rowe und Burkhard Beins treffen hier zwei alte Helden der manipulierten Musikinstrumente aufeinander. Diese beiden haben sich noch nie darum geschert, wie der Erbauer eines sich die Spiel- oder Klangweise ihrer Musikinstrumente vorgestellt haben mag. Rowe spielte schon Ende der 50er Jahre auf präparierten Gitarren mit Ventilatoren, Nägeln und anderen Werkzeugen. Die Weigerung, sein Instrument jemals wieder zu stimmen, führte zum Rausschmiss aus seiner damaligen Band, zur Gründung des englischen Improvisations-Ensemble AMM und zahllosen Solo-Auftritten. Beins kommt vom New Wave und beenutzt seine Trommeln hauptsächlich als Resonatoren und bespielt und beschabt Metallgegenstände. Ihre Zusammenarbeit auf “Grain” funktioniert aufgrund des gemeinsamen Gespürs für außergewöhnliche Sounds und faszinierende Atmosphären allerbest. Eine ruhige und entspannte CD, der man die Spielfreude der Beteiligten immer anhört. *****
– De:Bug –
Keith Rowe for avant-garde fans should need no introduction being co-founder of AMM (an historical “collective of improvisation”) and a member of Mike Westbrook’s orchestra. Burkhard Beins, on the contrary, belongs to the German experimental scene and is a member of Perlonex. In this record Rowe is playing his usual table top guitar, while Beins transforms percussions fundamentally into resonators aimed at amplifying the sound produced by a series of different objects. “Grain”, in fact, contains a great deal of sounds difficult to describe and whose origin is quite hard to tell. Even though they are not mentioned on the cover-sheet of the record, I would say there are samplings included too. Considering that it consists of improvised music, this record needs concentration; it is a continuous sound stream that moderately flows, at times interesting and at other times definitely boring (especially “Grain 2”) – a kind of cyclic open structure that doesn’t go anywhere. To be precise, “Grain 3” is a concert held in Berlin in June 2000, while Grain 1 and 2 are studio tracks recorded the same year in November.
– Musiche –
Co-founder of the English improv ensemble AMM (established in 1966), Keith Rowe has been an influential figure in experimental improvisation over his longstanding career. You can always count on Rowe, who performs on table top guitar, to surprise you as he explores and exploits his instrument (see the excellent CD Harsh, released last year on Grob). Burkhard Beins has been performing in contemporary and improvisation circles since the 80s. This is the first project I have heard from Beins, who is also a member of Perlonex (formerly Perlon), who also have a new release out on Zarek. Beins performs on percussion, using the drum as a resonator for amplifying the sounds of other objects. This CD brings us two studio pieces and one live piece. Bowing and scraping, abstract tones, disembodied chords, fluttering cymbals… this duo is able to provoke all manner of sounds from their instruments. Sometimes its a little tricky trying to discern which player is producing which sound. There is some very intense playing here, often moving from a beautiful and quiet expanse to a more rough-edged and audible outburst, but in all an enjoyable disc with a hint of mystery in its mood.
– Richard di Santo, Incursion –
Asking who is the most influential living improvising guitarist in certain North American or overseas circles, won’t produce expected names like Jim Hall, Pat Metheny or Kenny Burrell. Instead, tabletop guitarist Keith Rowe, a longtime AMM stalwart, and creator of a variety of prepared and ambient sounds is likely to be cited.
Rowe’s influence is so all-encompassing that one could speculate that a few of his more strident followers would deny that there’s a future for the upright guitar. What is true, however, is that for the past 30 years he, along with Derek Bailey, has been the guru of non-idiomatic guitar sounds in a group setting.
That’s why its so fascinating to hear him, as on this CD, outside of the AMM alliance, playing with a younger musician whose comprehensive conception of sound has been shaped by that band’s innovations. Not that German percussionist Burkhard Beins is in any way subservient here. He has already begun to make a reputation in combinations with British guitarist John Bisset and as part of Perlonex with guitarist Jörg Maria Zeger and Ignaz Schick on electronics.
Working together as a duo for the first time here, you notice almost immediately that except for some bald passages, the sounds produced are louder and more distinct then on some of Beins other projects. Of course turning up the loudness dial on your stereo for performances like this never hurts.
Centrepiece of the disc is the almost 28 minute “Grain 3 (Live),” which was recorded a few months before the two studio sessions that precede it. At first Beins seems content with producing what appear to be small garbage can lid rattles and what sounds like the resonating of a door stopper, as Rowe gets his plastic fan and other manipulating toys at the ready.
Yet when the guitarist builds up some pure electronic pulses and characteristic squeaks and what appear to be minute tops spinning, Beins begins hitting his cymbals with what sounds like a tiny swizzle stick. Gradually he turns to the rest of the kit to face off against a constant drone that comes from both Rowe’s guitar and ghostly radio noises that are just inaudible enough to mask the meaning of the words.
As what might be aluminum foil is twisted in the foreground, continuous electronic impulses vie with crackling static and snatches of radio music for the foreground as pulses shimmer in the background. Eventually Rowe seems to be twisting his instrument’s dials and button for maximum sound as the roar conjures up picture of the ceaseless moving machinery in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.
Resolution surfaces with the percussionist scraping a reverberating metal plane and the guitarist playing ascending and descending string patterns that could be vaguely Oriental. Finally his guitar is switched off and the rest, as they say, is silence.
Frankly, an over-dependence on silence is why the studio pieces — which ooze one in another — don’t work as well. A steady pulse from the guitar is the glue that holds the improvisations together and creates a sort of beauty in stasis. Sounds like the click of a metronome, a freight train passing a level crossing and metallic clicks and crunches work because they stand out from the buzz of the electric motor like a bas-relief. But when the sound disappear along with the equilibrium, as at the end of “Grain 2,” shape and symmetry do so as well.
A fascinating glimpse of Rowe’s talents outside AMM and a lesson in how other improvisers relate to him, GRAIN can be enjoyed not just by the converted, but by those searching for an entrée into these sorts of sounds.
– Ken Waxman/Jazz Weekly –
Almost all free-improvisation falls in the wake of AMM. To listen to AMM is to have time stop. That trio of Keith Rowe (prepared guitar), John Tilbury (piano) and Eddie Prèvost (percussion) have rearranged so many heads, that their inclusion into the canon of “essential creative music” is guaranteed. Their influence on improvisation is vast and profound. Post- “AMMmusic”, many improvised musicians became more concerned with creating a total sound field than just engaging in dialogue. The new third wave of improvisers takes more from the AMM model of egoless sound creation than free jazz’s distinctly individualistic improvisation. So, this meeting between Keith Rowe and Burkhard Beins is a little cultural milestone. Beins is one of many exciting musicians coming out of Germany. He’s a tremendous percussionist; his previous release with Perlonex is as time dilating as :zoviet:france:’s best work ever was. “Grain” completely measures up to the precedent set by both musicians. Rowe and Beins share a link through their extensive preparations of their instruments. The duo use the common ground to explore a vast range of textures and atmospheres. Beins’ percussion is only occasionally recognizable as such, while Rowe is doing what he’d done so well for 35+ years now: extending the range of the guitar into a mini-orchestra of instruments. It will never cease to amaze me who two musicians can make music as dense and detailed as a symphony.
– Nirav Soni/Ink19 –
Keith Rowe has the chops to bury any and all guitarists out there, mainstream or not. What makes him a first-class free improviser is the fact that he passed beyond the “performance” aspect of music decades ago. Years of acute listening and tempered interacting with avant-garde musicians have empowered him with an acute artistic sense. And that’s what Grain is all about: listening, interacting, leaving room for the other player, which in this case is German percussionist Burkhard Beins. Less is more on this record. The guitarist creates scratchy, delicate, but unstable textures while Beins bows cymbals, applies pressure on skins, moves objects on field drums. His approach and technique are similar to Lê Quan Ninh or Günter Müller’s “selected percussions.” This album was recorded in two sessions. A live concert in June 2000, the duo’s first performance (although both musicians had played together in other groupings) yielded the 28-minute “Grain 3 (Live).” A studio date five months later provided two more improvs to bring the CD duration up to 60 minutes. Most of the music belongs o free improv of the highest standard, but it requires attentive listening: gestures are sparse, interactions subtle. There is one exception: the last part of “Grain 2? where only a faint electronic high-pitched tone remains, lingers on for way too long. Otherwise Grain constitutes a thought-provoking and highly recommendable record. It also provides extra proof of Beins’ (underrated) talent.
– All Music Guide –
Members of Perlonex are peripatetic as well as peripherique. On ‘Grain’ Beins works with Keith Rowe (whose Gross release ‘Harsh, guitar solo’ was reviewed in v2001_03, and make over by Kim Cascone in v2001_01) on three improvised pieces. one was recorded live, and on the chemistry developed, the two decided to record in the studio as well. ‘Grain 3 (live)’ is a beautifully delicate piece where Rowe’s guitar looks towards lighter strumming and scraping, a radio played through a couple of times, some tones and crackling: overall a subtle approach, tending to electronica at times. This is perfectly balanced by Beins percussion, tending to simple metallic and supportive roles, clattering at times (I am assuming percussive anyway) though also drumming: there is a harpmotif near the end which could be the percussion – the end itself is wonderful: a slow throbbing guitar, which imagine was left there as Rowe and Beins walked off. Together the two components forming an intricate and fascinating sound world, surprising in its gestural intensity. ‘Grain 1’ is much more active, from both participants, and enters into some of the edgier harsher sounds of the guitar (and I noticed Rowe plays ‘tabletop-guitars’, the plural could explain some of the multilayered passages – picked strings while scraping is going on). It is, though, more dynamic than the live piece, varying volume and density more – there are some very soft passages – and also the types of percussion (water drums, for instance) and guitar attacks. A strange froglike croaking opens ‘Grain 2’ through which edgy guitar squeaks push, and a fuller piece again grows – dense guitars, cymbals. The piece begins to have quite an electronica feel, with hums and tones emerging from the guitar, building to quite a storm, and then settles into a long, extended simple tone which is modulated lightly, for over 7 minutes, building and fading during that time – quite a surprise, and a subtle balance to the first half. As with Rowe’s ‘Harsh’ album I enjoyed this much more than I expected (though that had given me a hint): I have come to like the sounds he extracts from his instrument, and what he does with them. The dynamic between the two players and their respective virtuosity creates an album which is both ambient and intense – it can crackle and flow away easily but is more rewarding when you give these two the focus they deserve.
– Ampersand –
Burkhard Beins is the percussion player of Perlonex and he teams up with Keith Rowe, the guy put the guitar on his back and started preparing it. Beins too prepares his drums with objects and various odd objects to play it. That similarity led them to play together, so we are offered two studio pieces and one live piece. There is some intense playing on here throughout the the entire CD. From silence to outbursts and back, also highly concentrated on the prepared instruments.
– Vital Weekly –
The residual music that ends up on the CD is intense, mesmeric, and packed with minimal detail; it provides a large and open space to explore. Get in there!
– Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector –
Grain es la reunión del dúo por primera vez a lo largo de más de una docena de años trabajando juntos. Es, entre otros proyectos, el aprecio y puesta en escena de la obra Teatise de Cornelius Cardew, la última en Bélgica, noviembre de 2003, formando parte del grupo electroacústico de Keith Rowe, con un ensamble de músicos argentinos y otros. Burkhard Beins, percusionista de grupos berlineses como Perlonex, el dúo Activity Center, o el trío YARBLES ha seguido muy de cerca la escena londinense de improvisación libre del entorno 2:13 Music. El enfoque del músico alemán a la hora de manejar los materiales, con manipulación y preparación en / sobre el parche, rozamientos, manejo de tímbricas en los platos, gongs, arco, plásticos, cuerdas, etc. hace que la combinación con la guitarra, siempre encima de la mesa, de Keith Rowe y sus manipulaciones sónicas, más musical que en otras muchas ocasiones, transistor incluido, resulte “químicamente” muy productiva. Dos piezas en estudio y un directo de media hora de duración hacen mella en cualquier aficionado a contemplar, escuchar en este caso, cómo dos músicos de semejante talla logran emocionar ante la sensibilidad, creatividad, solidez y lujo de fuentes sonoras. Publicado por Zangi Music. http://www.zangimusic.de.
– Chema Chacón, Oro Molido –