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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Burkhard Stangl / Steve Bates - Hopefullessness (The Dim Coast, 2015) ***½

By Eyal Hareuveni

Austrian Burkhard Stangl and Canadian Steve Bates do play electric guitars, but both experiment with the guitar's sounds, expanding its sonic outputs with electronics (and Stangl also adds CD player). Stangl belongs to the Viennese alternative musicians collective Klingt, known for his work with fellow Austrian sonic explorers Christian Fennesz and Christoph Kurzmann and with British sax innovator John Butcher. Bates collaborates with other like-minded experimentalists, researching sounds, its boundaries and borders, sounds in conflict, sounds in space and in time. The two have performed together with local Canadian sound artists as part of the 2012 events of the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival and a year later in Vienna with local like-minded improvisers.

Hopefullessness was recorded in Bates Home base, Montréal, and released on his own label, The Dim Coast. It offers three improvised perspectives about sculpting sounds produced with electric guitars and enhanced by electronics. The first, short “Two” contrast Bates turbulent, dense drone of distorted, noisy guitar sounds with Stangl's gentle, sparse melodic guitar line. The 20-minute contemplative “One” revolves around Stangl's sustained, resonant somehow bluesy kind of strumming disturbed occasionally with Bates' abstract sounds and static noises, that slowly attract more momentum and volume. This piece is developed patiently as a mysterious, multi-layered atmospheric texture. The last piece, the 17-minutes “Three”, summarizes this arresting meeting. It weaves gently Stangl wise manner of creating a rich, non-linear narrative out of fractured, sudden strumming of the guitar, often gravitating towards sparse melodic patterns, with Bates spicing up the texture, first with pure static sounds, and later by intensifying its course with parallel, distorted guitar lines.

Highly original.