Click here to [close]

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Samo Kutin and Martin Küchen – Stutter and Strike (Sploh, 2020) ****

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Martin Kuchen is hard to pin down and there’s no reason to try. Being so prolific, hε still manages to move easily between improvisation as a way of thinking in music making and a more organized, compositional approach. Even in cases like his, most of the times it is not so difficult to understand when and where a musician feels most relaxed, most at home maybe. Not in his case.

Checking out his recent discography, I believe that I see a bit of a pattern. Yes, still trying to pin him down… he seems to find fit in improvisation through smaller units, even duos like this one, while in larger ensembles he operates differently. But this is a duo. And a pretty good improvisational one. I was not familiar with Samo Kutin’s music until I heard Stutter and Strike. Both musicians seem to hit on from the beginning, achieving really high levels of interaction. Kutin is on modified hurdy gurdys, acoustic spring reverbs, percussion, objects while Kuchen plays alto and sopranino sax, some percussion and utilizes some pre-recorded sounds.

The duo is clearly in an improvisational work ethic. They seem to use all nine tracks of the cd as reference points for the listener. Any time I tried to listen to the cd, I had a strong feeling of continuity among the tracks. Kutin’s presence is crucial to Stutter and Strike. His various sounds provide the cohesion needed for such a recording. His use of the hurdy gurdy bring the percussive qualities of the instrument. It can be even misleading when someone, I think, tries to use an instrument totally differently that the normal way. Ok, this is not so new to the world of improvisation, but the very notion of total change (in sound but not only) remains a risk and a radical move. The only flaw I realized in Kutin’s playing is that the percussive sounds, their rhythmic and a-rhythmic repetitions, became too familiar for me, too easy even.

As you listen to the cd, you realize that the approach I already mentioned (one of continuity) lacks the highs and lows you many times expect from a free thinking recording. But that happens intentionally in Stutter and Strike. And it is no coincidence I believe. They choose to follow this path and they do it with persistence. This recording is taking its form little by little without bypassing the difficult parts in communicating through improvisation.