Until now, John Wiese was known to me - even if his music is well documented - only from C-Section, a recording with Evan Parker, which presents him rather as a sound berserker who can really let it rip. I was all the more surprised that his new album with pianist Paul G. Smyth goes in a completely different direction. On the one hand, the music here is more related to avant-garde or industrial music bands (think 23 Skidoo or Current 93) than the noise workout of C-Section. On the other hand, Smyth and Wiese evoke memories of the minimalist improvisations of AMM during the almost hour-long acoustic narration.
The beginning of the concert opens with circuitous textures of ambient sounds suspended in the vastness of a large concert hall and sparse, focused clatter of piano hammers, which deliver percussive accents. A rather dark atmosphere is created. Then, the sounds become more, louder and attack the listener from all sides, as if you were helplessly lost in an acoustic ambush. With closed eyes, one can definitely get scared here. The improvisation, however, is varied, rich in sounds and dramatic ideas. The musicians don’t present extreme highs and lows, they don’t look for reasons for escalation as far as loud/quiet passages are concerned, instead they concentrate on atmospheric, almost tender, acoustic soundscapes. To this end, they consistently build up an atmosphere of sensual electroacoustics. For this they often use subtle drones, hissing and creaking noises and small melodic explosions, for example when the piano is subtly dissonantly linked with electroacoustic noises. Here the somber and frightening atmosphere is also broken, especially when this minimalist phrasing approaches the realm of silence. Almost the entire section in the first third of the improvisation of the concerto is woven through with these dark details and dramatic undercurrents, but only to startle listeners again with purposefully placed clusters of noise. In this way, Smyth and Wiese succeed in condensing their sonic universe. The electronics then seek out more noise and post-industrial connotations, while the prepared piano counteracts this tension.
This ultimately creates multi-layered post-ambient music. The last eleven minutes in particular tear you back and forth between melancholic tones, post-industrial electronics, echo noises, synthetic stalactite cave sounds, and bumpy, atonal free jazz piano. You might cringe when the applause starts, it’s a sharp return to the reality of the concert and the real world.
The Outlier was recorded on 26 February, 2015 at Kevin Barry Room in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. It’s emphasis on free-form sound exploration and lack of a sturdy framework provides a subtle intense listening experience. Very recommended.
The Outlier is available as a CD and as a download. You can listen to it and buy it here: