Daniel Studer and Peter Frey (both on bass and electronics) play freely for
10 tracks across 52 minutes on Zeit, with Jürg Frey (clarinet) and
Alfred Zimmerlin (cello) joining them for four of those tracks.
Kontrabassduo Studer-Frey is a rich, long-standing collaboration that
blossomed around the time the duo recorded together on Markus
Eichenberger’s Domino Concept for Orchestra during 2001. Beyond
recording as Kontrabassduo with Zimmerlin on Zurich Concerts,
Studer plays with Zimmerlin as part of the string trio Trio
Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin (with Harald Kimmig) and P. Frey plays with
Zimmerlin as part of the string trio KARL ein KARL (with Michel Seigner).
J. Frey has recorded with Studer and Zimmerlin on Studer’s Ianus,
and recorded Zimmerlin’s compositions on Edition Wandelweiser’s Kammermusik.
The four tracks where J. Frey and Zimmerlin join the duo (“Pars Prima,”
“Pars Secunda,” “Pars Tertia,” and “Postludium”) were recorded live in
2004, and “Interludium” was recorded in studio in 2004. The rest of the
tracks are home recordings from 2018. The earlier recordings reflect the
early electroacoustic inclinations of the duo, while the later recordings
reflect their acoustic inclinations. Despite the disparate times, settings,
and approaches, these tracks feels like a cohesive collection. It won’t
fool you as a continuous set, but perhaps one with pauses spliced out.
A variety of extended techniques and bowing techniques create groans,
roars, scrapes, purrs, ripples, and pulses and at times mimic flutes,
horns, and breath. The duo’s communication is often contrapuntal, rapid,
and at times physical. “Initium” serves as a kind of digest of their
technique and communication, with traditional arco mixed up with bowing
below the bridge, tapping the strings with the bow, and sawing while
sparring with contrapuntal plucks, slaps, and preparations. Time, volume,
and space are always fluctuating, a deafening saw can be juxtaposed with
the hiss of recorded silence, yet the momentum nearly always feels forward
and the pacing is perfect. “Pars Secunda,” with its slow suspenseful build
on a backdrop of urban recordings, feels like Bernard Hermann re-scored Le
Cercle Rouge and “Excursio” jolts you with violent flaying sawing that
suddenly stops and rebuilds, amassing tension until the basses begin to
sound like horns and flutes. This kind of fluid identity is also achieved
on “Interludium,” where electroacoustic alterations transmute typical bass
plucks to electric skronk during a single sounding.
It’s a bassscape. But rather than ambient muzak to be osmosed it’s got so
much going on that it’s difficult to not engage it. Sometimes it almost
feels like a compendium of bass technique. A must-listen this year for
lovers of improvised strings. And if you enjoy this, P. Frey also appears
on Gasser 3’s Espresso Galattico on Leo from this year.
is a CD-only release.