Absinth Records 024 limited edition
Reviewed by Tony Mitchell, April 1st, 2014
Chris Abrahams is nothing if not versatile. Recently I was in Auckland, New Zealand, and happened to catch him in performance three times in a row. The first night was a sublime solo piano recital, which I wish had been recorded, consisting of two sets on a Yamaha in an art gallery in the depths of the eastern suburbs, the second a guest spot on blues piano on a battered upright with local blues/gospel/calypso maestro Tom Rodwell at the Wine Cellar, a comfy, small inner city venue, and finally on harpsichord with various local/international musicians, including guitarist Dean Roberts, at the Old Folks Association Hall, a new inner city venue, in an evening MC’d by former Wellington multi-instrumentalist Jeff Henderson, who also guested at the Wine Cellar.
This CD was recorded in St.Anne’s church, a major landmark in Zepernick, Germany, just outside Berlin, in the company of flautist Sabine Vogel, who also provided the atmospherically aquatic photos that adorn the cover, which is designed to look like a vinyl EP from the outside. It is one record of the increasing amount of time Abrahams spends in Berlin in what is known as the echtzeitmusik (real time music) scene (www.echtzeitmusik.de) during downtime from the Necks. Absinth is a label specialising in experimental music, on which Tony Buck has also recorded.
Photo by Sky Kirkham
Here Abrahams plays pipe organ, although not in any conventional way, producing mostly sustained single notes, drone like, with Vogel’s flute providing contrapuntal punctuations. The CD liner notes put it better than I can: “One instrument is made up of a pipe that, unmodified, can be manipulated in an infinite number of ways whilst the other is made up of many pipes that can be manipulated in a very limited number of ways. Both instruments use the flow of air to ‘sound’ and can create microtonal sonorities that at times tend towards vocalisations. Sometimes it is difficult to tell one from the other.” This is certainly true at times, when both instruments merge into piped sonic affinities.
A limited edition of 500, this recording evokes the audio environment of the churches where it was recorded, with modulations of volume, length and tonality, as well as occasional CD vocalisations from Vogel. The CD title is one of those portmanteau words the Germans specialise in and means something like “headfirst wave”. There are six tracks, lasting between five and eleven minutes, with the opening track, roadless, providing something of a key to the unpredictably meandering proceedings the album explores, while track 4, floating head over, resonates with the watery album title. Things develop at a slow, drawn out pace throughout, while the final track, companions for the river journey, recorded at another church in Potsdam with more of a bass organ sound, possibly evokes the river Spree, which flows through Berlin. Vogel’s flute really comes to life in this final track and momentarily takes a lead role. Overall, the sounds are pleasant, slightly soporific, and rather meditative.