Saturday, 5 September 2009

BURKHARD BEINS – Structural Drift

Künstlerhäuser Worpswede

The constant transition from “plain” improvising percussionist to composer of electroacoustic works seems to cause no problem to Burkhard Beins, who with Structural Drift – entirely conceived during a residency at Künstlerhäuser Worpswede from April to June of this year – managed to manufacture stimulating music through the use of a few instruments and objects, a clear-minded disposition of the same in rather linear compositional schemes and a clued-up utilization of the studio for editing and post-production. Generators include “e-Bowed and propelled zithers, analogue synthesizers, E.T. (!), looper, igniters, chimes, wood block, steel bands, fire and stones”. Some of these sources result practically unrecognizable, yet the ensuing amalgamation is rich in implications despite a deceptive elemental simplicity.

That something has changed in regard to Beins’ habitual structures - typically organized around a well-controlled discipline of intuitiveness - is immediately evident as “Drift 1” gradually invades the listening space via a velvety layering of synthetic tones that – once juxtaposed – elicit a classic effect of throbbing undulation which instantly puts Eliane Radigue, or Maryanne Amacher, in the listener’s mind. Only after a while a tangible rhythmic component appears, a cyclical repetition of quiet asymmetrical cracks (pebbles, perhaps?) that results extremely functional in comparison with the entrancing qualities of the fundamental pulse.

The second movement is more of a consecutiveness of interconnected settings, although a somewhat inert stratum often remains at the core of frequent moments of overcoming entrancement. The concrete materials begin to establish their authority pretty prominently, recurrent discharges of hoarse frequencies, clicking insurgences and metallic intromissions acting as contrasting elements in Beins’ palette, appearing in a state of undress for the occasional instances in which the electronic background disappear. About six minutes in, a gorgeous melodic figure depicted by strings establishes the main shade of what’s possibly the most emotionally charged moment of the album. A cross of heavenliness and irredeemable dissonance whose underlying harmonics sound like a choir of dirty-faced angels, before a clamorous rumble comes and destroys the scene decisively. Sort of a rite of passage backwards, from weird echoes back to the concreteness of a tough reality, the latter looking as the composer’s focal point of interest. The section ends with a three-note chime accompanied by infinite/looped upper partials (probably from the bowed zither) and additional interference, signalling that the storm may have passed but it’s better not to sleep.

The final and shortest track (“Drift 3”) is quite instable as far as timbres and dynamic continuity are concerned, characterized as it is by white noise-ish emanations, sudden interruptions, solid pitches that seem to eschew humanity, the whole sounding as cold as a hospital room invaded by cyber-insects. Contrarily to what many artists do, “dulcis in fundo” is not Beins’ motto: as a matter of fact he pushes us into a hole full of puzzlement and uncertainty, leaving doors open to different interpretations of his ideas. An added value to a cleverly succinct and, to all intents and purposes, brilliant record.