Given that a reviewer receives copious quantities of promos, the obvious risk is that masterworks may remain buried amidst towering masses of stuff. It Ain’t Necessarily So is one of those great records, something that strikes and asks for repeated spins right away. It’s a double CD released in 2008 documenting a performance taped two years prior at Vienna’s Porgy And Bess, in which the union between Palestine and Perlonex (Ignaz Schick, Jörg Maria Zeger and Burkhard Beins) produces genuinely supernatural sonorities. To be perfectly clear, this material is largely superior to their first recorded meeting in 2006’s Tensions on Nexsound. There’s a series of factors explaining the force of this set. Both entities sound utterly determined in extracting precious essences from a communion of intents: nothing gets wasted, every gesture revealing a definite purpose in spite of the atmosphere of shamanistic entrancement maintained throughout (culminating in Palestine’s deformation of the famous Gershwin song, a moment of incongruous bewilderment that cannot fail to affect).
Yet the main reason behind the magnificence of the textural gravity is the near-perfection in the amalgamation of the sources. Perlonex use percussion, guitars, effects, sine wave generators, loopers and various objects to produce droning grains that – put in comparison with the American’s now compellingly repetitive, now gently rarefied piano – literally expand our awareness in a bewitching rite of private absorption. The second disc in particular contains a long phase (developed along a segment identified with the name “Part Two”) in which we can#t call the result “music” anymore. What’s heard is a fusion of vibrating spirits, including those of a transfixed audience that releases what was kept inside before in deserved ovations at the end, which comes after inherent tension and acoustic ruggedness are gradually amplified in a spectacular crescendo.
Get a copy of this release by any possible means, and do not listen to it if someone else is around. Isolation is mandatory in these cases.
– Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes –
It seems that composer/pianist/performance artist Charlemagne Palestine has found, in the electro-acoustic trio Perlonex, some ideal collaborators. This two-CD set, recorded during a performance in Vienna in 2006, offers an engaging and engulfing listening experience, vibrating with both the crystalline grace and the compulsive discord that have long been a hallmark of Palestine’s sound world.
The sounds begin with long tones, likely from Ignaz Schick’s sine wave generators and devices: additive drones building up overtones, creating the sound-as-physical presence sensation familiar from Palestine’s organ compositions. Palestine, first with distant cantorial vocals, then with gently arpeggiated and, eventually, massively strummed grand piano patterns, finds space within this ever-changing flow. All the while the pulse and chatter and texture provided by Jorg Maria Zeger’s guitars and stomp boxes and Burkhard Beins’ percussion and electronics add surprise. It’s a long unfolding, a slow and heavy flow of sound – sometimes harrowing, always hypnotic – as it variously drones, pulses, resonates; whispers, roars, thunders.
The performances were recorded at a club called Porgy and Bess. That and a chance encounter Palestine had with a distant relative of the Gershwin family account in part, apparently, for the work’s title, and for the jazz-like sections wherein Palestine sings and chants the eight-syllable melodic/lyrical motif from the Gershwins’ song, “It Ain’t Necessarily So”. Palestine turns the phrase over and over in theme-and-variations, obsessively, shamanically, like a new thing tenor player, or perhaps like Bob Dorough morphing into Kurt Schwitters as a Gyuto monk. All the while the power of Perlonex’s sonic presence flows in and around both Charlemagne’s singing and his sometimes fluttering, sometimes pounding piano. The effect is seismic and celestial all at once.
Another thing – and not a small thing, maybe – that struck this reviewer upon repeated listening was the way Palestine and Perlonex have come close here, at times, to that elusive Cage-ean ideal: the power that rises from allowing sounds to adhere and yet still be sounds in and of themselves.
– Kevin Macneil Brown, Dusted Magazine –
From Berlin, Ignaz Schick puts in a welcome reappearance with three recent releases from his Zarek label. Schick I well recall from years ago as a member of the Perlonex combo and a solo performer in his own right, provider of a most distinctive and abrasive sort of grumbly-rumbly improvised music. Here are said Perlonex, performing a tripartite set with Charlemagne Palestine over a double disk set. It Ain’t Necessarily So (ZAREK 11/12) features Schick beaming out his sine waves, Jorg Maria Zeger strumming airy guitars and Burkhard Beins on transparent percussion, while the larger-than-life American performer contributes his strumming grand piano and vocals. On the first part at least, a very subdued and near-silent performance gathers momentum and strange graceful dynamics are executed in slow motion; by Charlemagne’s standards, I’d venture to call it one of his more restrained outings. The real surprise comes after 30 minutes, when Palestine extemporises vocally on the Gershwin lyric (inspired to do so by the name of the venue they were playing in Vienna, Porgy and Bess), delivering a stilted form of jazz scat-singing in his finest bel canto, veering from angry bellow to nasal whine, all slowed down to match the glacial pace of the proceedings.
– Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector –
Somewhere in Vienna there is a club called Porgy & Bess, and if microsound is the only language you speak, it is named after an opera by George Gershwin, who also wrote the classic tune “It Ain’t Necessarily So”. It’s also the title of a work recorded in this club by Charlemagne Palestine and Perlonex, the trio of Ignaz Schick (tube sine wave, bows, objects, turntable), Jörg Maria Zeger (stomp boxes, guitars) and Burkhard Beins (drums, percussion, objects, zither). The four of them have been playing together since 2004, and this double CD was recorded in 2006. It may seem like an odd meeting: the old master of minimal music, strumming at the keyboard and the improvisations of the German three. In two of the three pieces Palestine starts out with drones on his electronic keyboards and strumming at the piano, but things work quite nice here. Once the full quartet is in place, when things are in balance it works out fine. All four proof to be accomplished players of improvised music, with keen ears to what the others are doing around them. The only time Perlonex seems to start, the shortest piece on the package, things go slow, but then Palestine returns to his shamanistic singing, which is something which need not be. Otherwise a very fine release.
– Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly –
Improvised music lives on the live setting, where if you are attending, you either get (with) it, and then it is great, or you don’t get (with) it, and then it is trite. Which is a pretty obvious truism, by the way. If live improvised music in a live setting is a great, rewarding experience or a complete waste of time or something in between is dependent on many factors, some of which lie in the music, some of which lie in the musicians, some of which lie in the listener, some of which lie in the setting, the place, the other people, the mood, the political circumstances, and then some more factors and any kind of mixture of these. Rarely do all these things come together and then there is no guarantee that the recording of the evening is able to transport any of the magic of the live event. On the other hand there is also no way of telling if a live experience transferred to DAT might be a lot better than what you remember from being there.
Anyway, this recording of a show by Perlonex and Charlemagne Palestine from 2006 is definitely a great moment, as established above, either captured from the evening or magically enhanced on tape. If I had been there that evening – which is possible since it was recorded in Vienna – I could tell, but as it is I’ll suffice it to say that the recording is great. Charlemagne Palestine adds his gentle and elaborate piano chords to the electro-acoustic noise drone and manipulations of Perlonex over two lengthy pieces and an encore (spread over two discs), which start gentle, slowly grow and grow into something more and more dynamic, energetic and exhausting, then reach a culmination point, and afterwards ebb out again. It is not a dialogue between the two quite diverse artistic approaches, but more a travel comradeship between very different partners. All artists involved know the direction though the path is unknown, but it is first up and then down again, like any good mountain trip.
In the beginning of 2007 we reviewed an earlier recording of Perlonex with Palestine and with guitar improviser Keith Rowe on top (“Tensions” on a coop-release with Nexsound), and what has been said back then is still true for this release. Slowly growing tension and release, without extremes or excesses. There is also a metalevel of reflexion included in this recording: The club it was recorded is called “Porgy & Bess” and therefore and for some other reasons the artists decided to include “it ain’t necessarily so” from the George Gershwin songbook into their set. Most directly Palestine singing the title line over and over again in various forms until it first starts to lose all meaning and then starts to receive completely new ones. He also vocally improvises over the melody line and works out various variations of the melody on the piano here and there. Within the set atmosphere (and the expectations from these names) this is a standout moment, unexpected and in some ways disorienting. Palestine is not basically a singer, you know, the whole thing is more about the fact rather than the execution.
One of the finest and most impressive moments on here, for me, is when Palestine’s piano becomes a little more expressive and he starts to hammer low staccatoes while in the back the noise of Perlonex sounds like a swarm of army helicopters slowly approaching from the far. Sometimes I think this is because one of my earliest encounters with concrete music was on the soundtrack of Platoon with the string section mixed with the sounds of helicopters and bombs going of and a big fire – a moment of fascinating ease and beauty and contrasted with the sounds and images violence, war and slaughter. If you find this connotation out of place and disgusting, I am sorry, but the unconscious rules a lot more things than you might think. Over the course of the two CDs it is possible to close your eyes and then feel the ambience of the show, even down to the impulse to join the applause on the recording. What better can you say about a live record?
– monochrom.at –
Experimental electro-acoustic trio Perlonex’s leap of faith to wed its already distinctive interface with the highly idiosyncratic vision of American composer Charlemagne Palestine since 2004 is paying musical dividends – as this two-CD set aptly demonstrates. For while there are points during this live program at Vienna’s Porgy & Bess club when it’s palpably obvious that the trio members don’t know in which direction Palestine’s minimalist creations and ritualistic imagination are leading – he may not know himself – the speed at which they finesse a response to, and extrapolation of, his ideas leads to the highest form of improvisational cooperation.
Together for more than a decade in Berlin, turntable and electronics manipulator Ignaz Schick from Bavaria, guitarist and field researcher Jörg Maria Zeger and percussionist and sound installation artist Burhard Beins from Lower Saxony had, pre-Palestine, already forged a personal response to the challenge of lower-case, electro-acoustic music. A generation their senior, Palestine, whose recitals mix a unique variant of notated sounds on the piano with personalized ticks including cognac-drinking and vocalizing in an adenoidal shrill voice, benefits from the partnership as well. Perlonex’s looped static, burbling oscillations and sturdy, unchanging drones provide a framework for his more fantastic musical flights.
As is probably obvious from the title, Palestine’s chance meeting with a relative of George and Ira Gershwin while the four were gigging at a club named for George Gershwin’s opera reoriented the pianist’s synapses. Suddenly at certain points in the band’s sets when the quivering and resonating, highly abstract pulses head for a climax, Palestine, who trained as a cantor, decides to vocalize. In Part One he sings the lyrics of the title tune more-or-less straight; in Part Two he re-orients them not only with sardonic comments, but also scats and mumbles a series of nonsense syllables to the familiar melody.
Instantaneously reacting to the vocals and Palestine’s thicker note clusters on piano, the trio members shift course from what had accelerated into a staccato and fortissimo block of contrapuntal signal processing to airier broken octave accompaniment. Beins resonates bass drum thumps, Schick spaces the throbs from his sine-wave generator while squeezing out ring modulator-like signal and – in the second instance – Zeger unleashes a series of searing flanges from his guitar. As Palestine kinetically vibrates his keys, the distinctive electronic undercurrent lessens than fades.
Earlier on “Part One” the triple-created loops and hums expand from moderato to fortissimo until the quivering drones envelope the entire aural setting. With reverb signals, chromatic guitar strokes and abrasive turntable static more prominent than the pianistÕs clipped key voicing, the musical narrative appears set until it veers into theme variations. Likewise on “Part Two” when Palestine’s octave-jumping and dense chording gives way to sprinkled piano notes and otherworldly scatting and word play, the oscillated loops wiggle jaggedly in order to meet the primitivist key thumps Palestine develops.
Significantly bonding disparate musical visions into one which is more powerful than either on their own is the accomplishment of this two-CD session. It Ain’t Necessarily So is remarkable whether your preference is for improvised or noted music performed acoustically, electronically or even vocally.
– Ken Waxman, Jazzword –
Die Kollaboration des Berliner Trios Perlonex mit Charlemagne Palastine schreibt eine bewährte Form, die des ins Ekstatische getriebenen Drones, fort, wobei die Erweiterung der Stammformation um einen weiteren Musiker den musikalischen Verläufen einen konfrontativen Zug verleiht: die Musiker reiben sich gewissermaßen aneinander auf; die Spiegelung ihrer musikalischen Sprache im jeweils anderen führt zu Momenten der Irritation, an denen die Musiker und der Hörer gleichermaßen teilhaben.
– Björn Gottstein, Positionen –
Aus der ersten Begegnung von PERLONEX mit CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE, 2004 im Podewil Berlin (Tensions, Nexsound), wurde eine fortgesetzte Bekanntschaft. Ein Meeting im Dezember 2006 im Wiener Porgy & Bess, mitgeschnitten von ORF-Zeitton, ist nun als It Ain’t Necessarily So (Zarek 11/12, 2 x CD) zu hören. Der bad alchemystisch-gershwineske Titel bezieht sich natürlich auf den Auftrittsort, den Burkhard Beins dröhnperkussionistisch, Ignaz Schick mit Sinuswellen und turntablistischem Noise und Joerg Maria Zeger mit schwebenden Gitarrenfeedbackhaltetönen beschallten, während Palestine sich in seine gehämmerten Pianonoten versenkte. Perlonex emaniert so eine dröhnminimalistische Klangwolke, die ganz langsam anschwillt und aufblüht, als eine tosende Elektronenballung, in der beim ersten aufbrausenden Kulminationsgipfel nach gut 25 Minuten die metalloiden Bestandteile hörbar werden. Das Piano taucht daraus auf, wie einem Mahlstrom entronnen. Palestine beginnt meinen Wahlspruch zu singen, Beins lässt eine Murmel rotieren, der Gesang wird zum schamanistischen Zungenreden. Das Gedröhn beginnt, dunkel durchpulst, hell durchperlt und mit einem kreisenden Schaben, eine zweite Expansion, während der Brooklyner Tastenhauer lauthals das Motto predigt. Ein stechender Ton durchbohrt einem den Schädel, das Riffing beschleunigt noch einmal kurz, kommt scheinbar zum Halten, aber steigt dann erst über die Tonleiter nach oben aus. Launig verspricht Palestine einen Second Set, den er mit läutendem Zweiklang einleitet, aus dem sich durch Beschleunigung-Verlangsamung und Hebung-Senkung und stärkere perkussive Aktivität eine vielfältigere Modulation entwickelt als bei der Doppelhyperbel des ersten Sets. Ein grollender Drone fräst sich seine Bahn, von allen Seiten bearbeitet, zeitweilig aber dann fast transparent mit zarten Einwürfen des Pianos, erneutem “It Ain’t Necessarily So” und rührenden Stegreifraps, die Perlonex zu einer krassen Eskalation anstiften, in deren Ausläufer das Piano wieder mit einsteigt für den zarten Ausklang. Die Ovationen erzwangen eine Zugabe, für die Palestine zu Zither und klickenden Steinchen noch einmal zum Schamanen wurde.
– Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy –