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Sunday, November 5, 2017

DEK Trio – Construct 2 - Artacts (Audiographic Records, 2017) ****½

By Gustav Lindqvist

This second album in DEK’s Construct series was recorded in concert at the Artacts Festival, St. Johann, Austria on March 10 this year. On Ken’s bandcamp site the album is called Artfacts, which is not correct although a bit witty. The concert was the festival’s opening act, and it must’ve been tough to go on stage after DEK Trio finished playing. They’re playing 3 performances for a total of about 45 minutes, even though the last piece; ‘For the Birds’, is a mere 2 minutes and 41 seconds which takes us to a peaceful place in which we’re invited to slowly listen to a brief and pleasant landscape, nature like perhaps. It’s a nice way to end this great album, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. The album kicks off with the 18-minute act ‘Xerox Collage’. We’re thrown straight into an improvised game of lead-and-follow. The trio follows each other magnificently and I find myself smiling when trying to figure out who’s calling the shots before resigning to just enjoy the chase. Sometimes I’m convinced Ken’s trying to leave Harnik and Kern hanging with his way of running away with an idea, but they see him through, and Harnik completely takes on the challenge with her own expressive bursts and runs over the piano. Minute after minute, this playful way of taking an idea, offering it to your fellow artist, letting him or her take over or to just improvise together continues. It’s highly satisfying to try and figure out what’s happening within this receptive trio. About halfway through Kern delivers bells, whistles and other drumming paraphernalia over a somewhat mystical landscape. It’s surprising at first having just heard the high paced run from the trio. Vandermark quickly gets the idea and starts to interlock sounds with Kern and almost as being called upon from a distance, Harnik returns to the scene and the trio takes off again. What a way to start an album!

The second song, ‘Paper Tongue’ starts with Harnik alone in a monk-esque mood. Exploring and searching for structures. But it doesn’t last and soon she’s running across the piano. It arrives to a murmuring sound at which point Vandermark and Kern joins in. Another long improvisation starts to take shape. It’s fast, expressive and passionate as Vandermark keeps throwing out bright fast notes to meet with Harnik’s. The trio keeps transforming the song into new directions, changing the landscape to something more soothing, only to tear it up the next minute. Scraping and screeching sounds meets dark piano notes, meets sad melodies, meets silence. The way this trio collaborates over improvised ideas is simply masterful. Even though the form is very free the collaborative efforts in improvisation over a broad variety of styles and sounds is clearly what this trio wants to offer us. Thank you for that DEK Trio. Thank you very much!

Oh, and the album ends with the sub 3-minute song ‘For the Birds’. A delicate praline of sounds. Birdsounds or sounds for birds or something in between.