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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Sainkho Namtchylak, Ned Rothenberg, Dieb13 - Antiphonen (Klanggalerie, 2020) ****

By Keith Prosk

Sainkho Namtchylak (voice), Ned Rothenberg (clarinet, alto saxophone, shakuhachi), and Dieb13 (turntables) play freely for two tracks across 52 minutes on the live recording, Antiphonen. Namtchylak and Rothenberg have a rich history together, first recorded on 1996’s Amulet and accelerating in recent years with the formation of SainkhoKosmos, which can be heard on Cafe Oto’s 6.8.17 and Echo of the Ancestors. This is the first time Dieb13 performed with Namtchylak and Rothenberg but the electronics musician - perhaps best known for his compelling collaborations with Burkhard Stangl, Mats Gustaffson, and eRikm, or his contributions to this year’s massive Soigne Ta Droite - elevates the long-time duo to heights unseen since their first meetings.

Antiphonen ’s two tracks appear to be a set and an encore, with “Shave and a Haircut” taking up the first forty-or-so minutes. As expected with a freely-improvised set, it meanders and flows, without much structure but making sense from moment to moment. Each musician provides an impressive range for their chosen instrumentation. Dieb13 produces a collage of vinyl crackle, bowed strings, ringing gongs, squirrely squeaks, tea kettle whistles, bass throbs and drops, foghorns, and much more. Rothenberg freely transitions between saxophone, shakuhachi, and clarinet, between noirish lines, snaking, circular whirls, and austere, breathy, ghostly flute punctuations. Namtchylak has eight octaves to choose from and a small menagerie of extended techniques, from her native Tuvan throat singing to scat-like skittering with some light cheek- and breath-play. They communicate not just through response but also mimickry, with Namtchylak crackling her voice like vinyl or Dieb13 producing something like altosax overtones and tongue slaps (at times it seems he was sampling Rothenberg live). Rothenberg’s sometimes Klezmer-inflected contributions, a music meant to imitate the voice, fits perfectly with Namtchylak’s wails, cries, and distorted laughs; similarly, Namtchylak’s occasional overtone-producing throat singing fits perfectly with Rothenberg’s often multiphonic approach to his reed’s harmonics. Rothenberg and Dieb13 are particularly locked-in for most of the set, producing an entrancing foundation upon which Namtchylak builds and which would be an interesting listening by itself. The set ends climactically, with a meditative sung drone, winding sax lines, and deep bass steppes. “Two Bits” is a digest of the set, beginning quietly but quickly building to commanding bass electronics, freewheeling reeds, and howls. Whereas Namtchylak’s voice often felt draped over the other musicians’ inputs on “Shave and a Haircut,” “Two Bits” presents a more unified trio.

Some of Rothenberg and Namtchylak’s collaborations tread the laid-back feeling of lounge rock and trip hop with their glossy production, like Stepmother City or Echo of the Ancestors. There’s a greater energy and immediacy in their live performances together, captured on Amulet, 6.8.17, and here. Amulet succeeds not just because of a complimentary approach to folk musics or overtones, but Namtchylak’s emotional rawness. On Antiphonen, her contributions are more restrained, significantly less guttural, less visceral. The effect is a confusing emotivity without the cathartic payoff; her sighs, wails, and cries carry the emotional baggage of human communication but seem uninvested in it. Surely a challenge for many vocalists. Still, this is a worthwhile snapshot of this famous duo - the best since Amulet, I think - with an intriguing addition in Dieb13, who serves as a kind of medium for both Rothenberg’s electroacoustic collaborations and Namtchylak’s more produced efforts but with a vitality greater than each.

Antiphonen is a CD-only release.