Thursday, February 24, 2022

2 Albums from Clarinetist Michael Thieke

By Eyal Hareuveni

Two duos of the German, Berlin-based clarinetist and composer Michel Thieke, both suggest distinct and minimalist, contemplative and highly immersive listening experiences.

The International Nothing - Just None of Those Things (Ftarri, 2022) ****

Every three or four years the Berlin-based clarinet duo The International Nothing reminds the innocent listeners about the merits of corporate nihilism and somehow associating these dubious statements with artwork of friendly wild animals, always designed by Tanabemse. Just None of Those Things, the sixth album (and the fifth for the Japanese label Fatrri, which means two people in Japanese, 二人) of the duo - Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski - continues this more than two decades remarkable tradition The album was conceived between 2019 and 2021, and recorded by Thieke at Fagaschinski’s living room in Berlin-Kreuzberg on two dates in June 2021.

This album distills more than ever the duo’s obsession with their own long-form compositions. Thieke and Fagaschinski always focused on multilayered sound sculpting, multiphonics, beat frequencies and difference tones as an integral part of their language and performed with great detail, precision and subversive sense of humor. They still sound like a collective entity, blurring the dimensions of time and space with their great attention for weightless statis. The 42-minute title composition, with only the acoustic clarinets of Fagaschinski on the right channel and Thieke on the left one, plays with air like a delicate, tactile sonic matter. This arresting, meditative piece often sounds like an abstract, futurist and psychedelic piece for minimalist electronics. But these gifted improvisers sculpt, color and layer, and investigate carefully in their own commanding poetic manner its primordial, subtle ethereal qualities, further down into the abyss of weirdness and nothingness. At least until The International Nothing will have more breaking news about the nature of humankind and the future of this planet.

Michael Thieke / Luigi Marino - Native Languages of Nowhere (Emergent Idioms, 2022) ****

The duo of Thieke and Italian, London-based Luigi Marino explores optimist sonic territories similar to The International Nothing. Thieke plays the clarinet and Marino plays bowed custom cymbals, the Persian goblet drum - zarb, and electronics generated by a 9v battery and projected by the vibrations of the instruments themselves. This duo began working in Berlin in 2016 and performed all over Europe. Native Languages of Nowhere is the debut album of the duo and the debut album of the newly founded Emergent Idioms label, released on cassette with a limited environmental footprint.

Thieke and Marino have established a subtle dialog focused on the way the ethereal breaths and sounds of the acoustic clarinet resonate within the metallic surfaces of the bowed cymbals, raw electronics, or the echoing zarb, and together offer an enigmatic, fragile collective entity. Like The International Nothing, the dynamics of this duo are patient, precise, focused on extended segments of statis, investigate methodically the timbres of the acoustic and the simple electronic sounds, and offer a weird and hallucinogenic, listening experience. But this duo colors its fascinating dynamics with rawer, noisier sounds, depicting abstract and quite cinematic, suspended landscapes, or morphing organically into simple melodies and odd, sparse pulses. The second extended piece “Dusk” cements even further the futurist and cinematic, surprisingly lyrical sceneries of this duo’s imaginary territories while the last, short piece “Breaking Song” charges its electro-acoustic interplay into deep, dark space.

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