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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The International Nothing (... And Something) - The Power Of Negative Thinking (Monotype Records, 2016) ***½

By Eyal Hareuveni

The International Nothing is the Berlin-based duo of clarinet players Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke. The two have been working together since 2000, refining a highly personal language focused on introspective, microtonal textures through stasis, patiently investigating timbre, multiphonics and extended techniques, with a commanding intensity spiced with a dry sense of humor (reflected also in the cover art by Japanese Masae Tanabe). This duo has released three albums on the Japanese label Ftarri (Mainstream, 2006; Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything, 2010 and The Dark Side of Success, 2014).

Fagaschinski and Thieke collaborated together with other musicians, as the avant-pop quartet The Magic I.D. (with vocalists Margareth Kammerer and Christof Kurzmann), but The Power of Negative Thinking is the first recorded document of The International Nothing collaborating with other musicians. The duo first met drummer-percussionist Eric Schaefer and double bass player Christian Weber in 2006 and recorded The Power Of Negative Thinking on December 2011. Calling the new outfit The International Nothing (... And Something) means that it was a true collective effort.

The expanded International Nothing sound is still a disciplined, precisely determined unit but the now sonic envelope is more dynamic and deeper with the addition of Schaefer delicate, percussive colors and the dark bass of Weber. Schaefer and Weber embrace and contrast Fagaschinski and Thieke's nuanced and patient, almost transparent flow of multiphonics and overtones with a soft and distant layer of resonating, deep-toned noises as on “We Can Name You Their Names”, “What You Need to Know About Drowning” and the contemplative march of “Nothing’s Gonna Last Forever”. But this contrasting approach also intensifies The International Nothing refined playing into surprising terrains. Suddenly a more concrete, erratic pulse, becomes playful on “The Golden Age Of Miscommunication” and even joyful one on “Something Went Wrong” that adopts a twisted dub pattern. I guess that it is always useful to challenge your way of thinking, whether it is negative or positive.