agape |cs035








































Martin Küchen plays prepared and non prepared altosax and David Stackenäs plays guitar and low-budget electronics and the recordings were made in Fylkingen, Stockholm about a year ago. Stackenäs provides mostly drone related, sustained sounds by using the e-bow, violin bow and motorized objects to play the strings. Küchen plays his instrument also in sustained mood, with occasionally with some sense of rhythm. It's hard to recognize either the guitar and the saxophone in this work, but the playing is a quite intense, and this is particular fruitful combination.[…] Frans de Waard (Vital)

Recorded in May 2004 by Andreas Berthling, "Agape" features five improvised tracks by Küchen (prepared and non prepared alto sax) and Stackenäs (guitar, low-budget electronics). I suppose both artists are Swedish; I only know that the latter released a solo cd of acoustic guitar pieces on Häpna some years ago. Don't be mislead by the title, as "Agape" is quite a fierce and obsessive cd. Instruments melt and stratify in a droning mass, and even in its many subdued passages this is a very "full" and powerful work. The feedback(?)-driven drones (tracks 1, 3, 5) are almost minimalist in a Lucier-like way, but with the subtlety of ever-changing details coming from a live improvisation. Eugenio Maggi (Chain DLK)

The fantastic, memory-eliciting photos of the cover, portraying family members in pretty advanced age posing in their old-style living rooms, plus the recording date - May 16th 2004, seventieth birthday of my mother - constitute a pretty interesting coincidence; the oblique conjectures by Küchen on prepared and unprepared alto sax and Stackenäs on guitar and low-budget electronics do the rest in this "dynamically static" (here I go again) release, where ears are literally forced to to invent colourful gradations in what apparently manifests as a series of irregular blocks of almost repressed energy, whose tonality comes from just a bunch of clashing harmonics and jangling sustained string vibrations. Righteous angers are kept at bay, indeed they get moulded into dozens of stimulating projections that the brain has a hard time decoding, accepting them only after a few seconds; what starts as a juxtaposition of quivering electric flows is watered by humid pipes of uncertainty, the intertwining structural networks becoming a saturating isolation from substantial relationships with the external world. A subtle thread divides the couple from a complete implosion, yet this never happens and the observation of this progressive counterbalance of obstinations yields truly appreciable consistency and a wholly new definition of "artistic responsibility". Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes)

Hot on the heels of his Confront solo album, alto saxophonist Martin Küchen is back in action on this rugged set of duets with guitarist David Stackenäs. By way of accompaniment, the booklet and tray are adorned with old photographs from the Küchen and Stackenäs family archives, one showing an elderly gentleman with a set of headphones clamped tightly to his head. His expression is hard to read – a faint smile, but there's maybe a slight twinge of pain there too. From the look of the machine he's plugged into, he's not listening to Agape, but you should be, as it's a splendidly recorded and executed set of sensitive and patient investigations into the world of extended instrumental techniques. That said, it's a world we're becoming increasingly familiar with: a quarter of a century ago the old cliché went that you could tell where an improviser came from just by listening to his / her music (you remember, English "insect music", German balls and bluster, Dutch pottiness and all that). If that was ever the case, and I have my doubts, it isn't anymore. Musicians all over the world – Berlin, Boston, Barcelona, Zürich, Tokyo, Paris, Lisbon, Vienna and London – are exploring the same territory as Küchen and Stackenäs here. In one sense this is rather gratifying, as it testifies to the emergence of a network of musicians who are, thanks to new technology as much as to the efforts of labels like Creative Sources, in regular contact and creating opportunities to play and record together. On the other hand, it does seem that a clearly defined set of rules has emerged. High speed action "gabby" (to quote Malfatti) improv is generally avoided, consensus has replaced conflict, regular repeating rhythms are frowned upon and any sense of pitch play remotely related to tonal centres sounds as rare and surprising today as a breathy multiphonic or spitty gurgle would have done back in 1960. Stackenäs and Küchen are versatile players who have made strong statements in other musical idioms, and yet for Agape it's as if they've deliberately restricted the vocabulary to standard 2005 post-reductionism. I like to think that in the near future this generation of free improvisers will feel comfortable enough to welcome words and idioms from other languages once again, but that's because I happen to believe that improvisation isn't only about making beautiful wheels – it's also about sticking spokes into them and seeing what happens. Dan Warburton (Paris Transatlantic)

Martin Küchen i David Stackenäs od jakiegos czasu zaliczani sa do czolowki wspolczesnych skandynawskich improwizatorow. Pierwszy z nich to uznany, wszechstronny saksofonista o dosc duzym dorobku, muzyk grajacy z rownym powodzeniem jazz – tu zwrocic nalezaloby uwage na kwartet Exploding Customer – jak i roznorodne formy free improv – ze wszech miar godne polecenia sa nagrania formacji Looper, UNSK, Cloudchamber. Stackenäs zas to intrygujacy, niekonwencjonalny gitarzysta, ktorego muzyka zdecydowanie zbyt rzadko udokumentowana zostaje p_ytami. Na szczescie „Agape” nieco te smutna statystyke poprawia...
Piec utworow, choczagranych w dosc podobny sposob – to dlugo wybrzmiewajace, delikatnie i powoli modyfikowane preparacje tworza kolejne warstwy dzwieku, dodajmy od razu: warstwy, ktore to nak_adaja sie na siebie, to znow sie przenikaja – odrozniajac sie „gestoscia brzmienia”, wysokoscia tonow, badz tez czasem ich wybrzmiewania. Sprawia to, ze kazde z nich ma wlasny charakter oraz klimat i choc lazy je niezwyk_a cierpliwosc i precyzja, z jaka kolejne koraliki dronow nanizane sa na niewidzialna nic improwizacji, ujmujaca powsciagliwosc towarzyszacych im instrumentalnych zabrudzen oraz subtelnosc uzyskanego w taki sposob dzwiekowego pejzazu, to nie sposob ich pomylic. Tadeusz Kosiek (Gaz-Eta)

Two relatively unheralded Swedish improvisers, saxophonist Martin Küchen (here credited with prepared and nonprepared alto) and guitarist David Stackenäs (who also uses “low-budget electronics” on this disc) explore very subtle, understated territory on Agape (Creative Sources 035). Does the title refer to an opening or to the Latin term for selfless love? Perhaps both. There are five tracks (recorded in May 2004), and Küchen explores resonance and circular breathing (as opposed to the approximations of animal life heard on his fine solo disc on Confront). Though the duo works in careful and restrained territory, they achieve a fullness and rich presence: many of the most powerful moments involve slow feedback humming, microtones flirting then blending, and a slow degeneration of tone that recalls some of Polwechsel’s early pieces. Occasionally there is a clattery breakdown, as on the second track. But they generally avoid any rhythmic impetus in favor of sonic sheen and the crackle of breath mixed with electricity. There is a slight repetitiveness that creeps in by the end of the record, but the stunning third track is worth the price alone. It begins with e-bowed acoustic strings floating through Küchen’s wet gurgles. Things rise and fall, accumulate and disperse (Stackenäs makes some alarm-bell sound which seems to provoke and cajole), fittingly encapsulating this fine duo’s overall methodology. Jason Bivins (Dusted Magazine)

Martin Küchen (as, prep as) et David Stackenäs (g, electr) font partie de cette nouvelle generation de musiciens improvisateurs scandinaves qui, suivant l’impulsion donnée par Mats Gustafsson, Raymond Strid, Sten Sandell, renouvellent et recyclent les acquis des musiques improvisées européennes. Küchen est en train de s’affirmer comme un des explorateurs d’anches les plus en vue. Creative Sources a publié Tidszon du groupe UNSK où ses coups de bec font merveille en compagnie de Strid, Birgit Ulher, et Lise-Lott Norelius. Stackenäs, don't le Guitar Solo sur Happna fut une revelation il y a quelques années, adopte ici la guitarre acoustique don't il fait vibrer les cordes avec un géneérateur de champs magnétiques. Il rejoint par là les Erhard Hirt et Jean-Marc Montera, la saturation électrique en moins. Il obtient des effets très varies avec ce procédé, effets dans lesquels flotte la voix étranglée du saxophone préparé de Küchen. Le guitarriste recourt aussi à des lowbudget electronics. Il en résulte un subtil climat de tensions orageuses, de nuages s’échappant dans l’air frais du matin et de vents qui se lèvent sur une mer menaçante. Vous excuserez votre serviteur de ne savoir dans quelle catégorie redux, lower-case, électro-dispositif, static noise ou ambiemprov ranger ce charmant objet sonore, bien que la pochette retro suggère l’improv traditionnelle dans laquelle ces deux musicians excellent. Mais la manière d’Agape convient sans doute mieux à l’esprit Creative Sources. La qualité de l’échange proposé ici laisse songeur quant aux possibilities d’un tel duo dans le cadre de l’impro traditionnelle. Ce n’est pas le tout de vouloir faire du neuf, il faut aussi convaincre. Et les 39 minutes des cinq morceaux d’Agape (A, G, A, P, E) y parviennent avantageusement. Jean-Michel van Schouwburg (Improjazz)

Vid sidan av det expressiva spelet i frijazzgruppen Exploding Customer har saxofonisten Martin Küchen på senare år även trätt in på en mer minimalistisk väg, där ljud kommer före toner, det organiska före det fragmentariska och det lågmälda före skrik.
När han tillsammans med gitarristen David Stackenäs släpper skivan "Agape", inspelad på Fylkingen i Stockholm i maj 2004, är det en naturlig fortsättning på gruppen Loopers debutskiva "Squarehorse" från förra året och soloskivan "Music from one of the provinces in the empire" från tidigare i år. Stackenäs har mig veterligen inte spelat denna form av improvisation så utstuderat som här tidigare, i alla fall inte på skiva. Men han gör det magnifikt, uppfinningsrikedomen är stor och han dubblerar även på "low-budget electronics".
Ett av de första intrycken av "Agape" är den nästan totala frånvaron av toner och spel i konventionell mening. Ur saxofonen, preparerad eller inte, kommer snarare blåsljud och bubbel, ljud från försiktigt trummande fingrar och från diverse attiraljer som dras mot instrumentet. Stackenäs å sin sida använder bland annat kontrollerad rundgång och en liten propeller vars blad får snurra mot strängar, stall eller kropp och skapa droneliknande ljud. Vanliga tillslag på strängarna hörs endast på en av låtarna.
Tillsammans skapar dessa ljud nya små världar, med subtila rörelsemönster och där referensramar med fördel kan hämtas från andra håll än de musikaliska. När jag sluter ögonen känns det vid ett flertal tillfällen som om jag befinner mig framför tv:n mitt en dokumentär i "Mitt i naturen". Ljud av djur som bökar i jorden, söker mat, med en svag bris i bakgrunden.
Både Küchen och Stackenäs har en otrolig förmåga att förvrida och hitta på nya ljud från sina respektive instrument. Och det låter helt naturligt, de skapar på intet sätt ljud enbart för ljudens egen skull. Snarare bygger de gemensamt upp skivans fem låtar, mellan fem och tio minuter långa.
Musiken är lågmäld, men det är däremot nästan aldrig tyst. Långa ljud håller samman improvisationerna och ger dem en mer organisk form. Och den öppna ljudbilden gör att de många detaljerna träder fram. En väldigt levande och spännande musik. Magnus Olsson (Soundofmusic)

[...] On Agape (Creative Sources), his duet album with saxophonist Martin Küchen (a member of the energetic free jazz quartet Exploding Customer), he demonstrates his expertise with gestural, abstract tendencies. While his partner concentrates on unpitched breathing sounds, Stackenäs masterfully alternates carefully selected bits of high frequency feedback and string scraping, striking his axe with various unnamed devices (I’m not sure, but on some passages he appears to be using handheld electronic devices that nick the strings in rapid succession). The pair engages in a lovely, richly nuanced dialogue. [...] Peter Margasak (Chicago Reader)

Bach, Schubert, Beethoven, Wagner als Ahnengalerie, zumindest als ‚Heilige Familie‘ eines Musikliebhabers in seinem ‚Ohrensessel‘, diese bürgerliche Selbstdarstellung gehört in ein Zeitalter, als die Möbel noch geschwungene Beine hatten. Agape (CS 035) von den beiden Schweden MARTIN KÜCHEN und DAVID STACKENÄS zeigt noch einmal so eine Welt mit Goldrand und braunen Sepiatönen, optisch. Der Altosaxophonist Küchen (*1966), der bereits mit UNSK auf CS auftauchte und von dem zuletzt anlässlich seines Confront-Solos music from one of the provinces in the empire die Rede war, deutet seine akustische Orientierung mit Projektnamen wie Cloudchamber oder Sound of Mucus an und dem Titel eines weiteren Solos, Sing with your mouth shut. Stackenäs (*1974) ist der Gitarrist in Mats Gustafssons NU-ensemble und DJustable. Er ist dort gewohnt, dass ihm der Wind um die Ohren pfeift und behauptet sich mit einer mit low-budget electronics frisierten Akustischen. Ihm sind feine Dröhnminimalismen zuzurechnen, schwingende Drahtwellen und motorisches Sirren, das im Stereoraum umher schrillt wie ein Schwarm gläserner Bienen. Das Altosax verwandelt sich in Olympiermanier zum Wasserbüffel, zur Gieskanne, zur Mövenschar, zum Kreidestrich auf einer Tafel. Aber Zeus, der alte Shapeshifter, hat, dem Titel nach, dem Eros abgeschworen. Von der Götterfunkenzeit trennt hier kein Abstand, sondern ein Abgrund. Nur dass die Gegenwart hier noch einmal umgestülpt wird wie ein Tintenfisch, dessen Inneres als elektroakustisches Gekröse nach außen gekehrt wird. Wird hier die bedingungslose Liebe zur Kakophonie, für die Parts maudit von Nada Brahma vorgelebt? Kakophilie heißt sich selbst begegnen. (Bad Alchemy)