Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre
“Looper is the trio of Nikos Veliotis, Martin Küchen and Ingar Zach, their respective instruments cello, reeds and percussion (this is not authenticated on the cover, some of the sounds heard in this CD definitely suggesting the presence of electronic emanations). Dying Sun is a superb effort that must be absorbed in total stillness – and, possibly, loneliness – throughout lots of listening sessions. Even a beloved family member interrupting the flux with mundane matters is going to damage the experience. This is the kind of substance that defines a moment of a person’s life very precisely, either implying different mental stances or reinforcing the pre-existing ambition to a salubrious isolation. It’s not for everybody. This lack of democracy should be a rule to follow for artists interested in fusing themselves with the quintessence of vibrational matter rather than getting recognized at all costs.
“Grand Redshift” starts with an underlying hum broken by percussive/abrasive insertions and a slow tolling. A Radigue-like mass expands, the ears begin to adapt, the skull is gradually saturated. The load is augmented by occlusive low frequencies, a basic pulsation and calculated dynamic fluctuations. A few harmonics seem to adjust to the room, the accumulation becoming gently invasive. It changes noticeably depending on the position you’re in. Dissonant whispers appear, the cello growls mutely, mixed with classic mouthpiece-and-tube activities. A circular snoring of sorts materializes, followed by more humming. Patterns – albeit atypical – exist, electronics (or whatever it is) acting subliminally on the perceptive mechanisms. Quiet elements that elicit sensations of impending disaster. Cyclical creaking camouflaged within the reeds, a regular rhythmic tapping subtending a lengthy stretch. No one seems willing to come to the forefront, the single components measurable nonetheless. Dropping drones, think “fragments of engine”, get highlighted by a rough whirr underneath. Ineluctability reigns without openings to light, evoking pessimism. An engrossing listen, anyway.
“Hazy Dawn” is introduced by a cymbal (gong?) resonance accompanied by an irregular buzz, faint overtones materializing shortly thereafter. It justifies feelings of involvement, preoccupation and alertness, its reverberating halos taking command little by little. The piece is so beautiful, a restrained composition picking the “right” inside strings; we have always belonged herein. And, unfortunately, it is too short. “Near Eternity” is even simpler: fixed pitches akin to controlled feedback, the repetitiveness of a remote bump, the gradual diminishing of already weak signals ending the segment by leaving a huge question mark hanging over our heads.
One of the top three releases in both imprints’ catalogue, simple as that.”
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
“This is a fused trio. Their music is vibrant and gentle, like the sounds of the sea that can be heard on old boats navigating an archipelago. Low puffing noises, swaying and splashing sounds. And it evokes a sense of ancient power, which I mean as a compliment. It is a music of great depth which reminds me both of the Djurgården ferry and a journey of death on the river Styx. It has the same captivating natural pulse, as if you’re listening to someone's breathing.
The music settles near the existential experience of pain, fear, desire to escape, confinement. The end is near at hand, since these three musicians are so successful in getting the music to throb as if it wanted out. They circle it and created a place for it as if it is an unruly animal that they have to keep in check.
So I listen only to the trio, before I try to trace the special sounds of the instruments: Veliotis on cello, Küchen’s saxophone or Zach's drums. It is so slow, as if all the players are happy to hide within the sounds, which sometimes become almost too fluid, and furtive. Then I get impatient and think, come on, come forward, and then sure enough you’ll hear some unexpected undulating sounds from the drums, or a stubborn sliding sound, perhaps derived from nervous abrasive bowing on the cello, or a sound that mixes a little taste of metal and air, so must be Küchen. The music has a quality of such thinness that it feels like a sky from which the clouds have disappeared. Over there I sense Zach's cymbal sounding and music that has passed through an electronics mixer and turned into floating objects, vague in outline but with the nucleus of each instrument as a clue.
This is a music without sharp outlines, but also a music that remains at the centre rather than hanging round the edges. There is a willingness to gather in a common desire or thought. If this has meditative or even religious connotations, I cannot confirm or deny. The third track begins with a vague tone that is punctured by Zach's muffled timpani. "Near Eternity" is wetted gently by Küchen’s lips pressing against the reed so that we find ourselves inside a large reverberant tone. It is highly effective, dramatically - and creates a sense of mystery. I do not want to be seduced in this way, and yet I give in to it. It is so peaceful but never mawkish. The music has a strong spatial sense, an impression of walls and boundaries being created by a seeping black gas that comes from the musicians’ closed eyes. A drone emerges from the disorder near the end, then fades away leaving only a slight hissing noise. The last thing that decays is a fading pulse.
This is something much more than the usual reductionist Improv. For me it is a visit to the space that John Cage called ‘silence’. But perhaps a little more varied, as the three musicians examine sounds beyond the usual, listening to the pulse beats. As if they were recalling that most well-known of Cage’s stories, when he enters an anechoic chamber - and hears his own nervous system and pulse. So although I don’t depend on Cage, it is appropriate that it is part of Another Timbre’s Silence and After series, as it inevitably recalls the famous American’s book ‘Silence’. ”
Thomas Millroth, Sound of Music
“Carefully constructed layers of sound relieve one another in surprising ways in the slow moving music of the trio Looper. The Greek Nikos Veliotis, the Swede Martin Kuchen and the Norwegian Ingar Zach know each other well after several years of working together, and they have developed a chemistry and an ability to listen that mirrors the original expression. Perhaps to remove the listener from his or her prejudices, the sleevenotes don’t tell you what instruments the three play. Cello, saxophone and percussion are the instruments they are usually linked to, but these musicians work with sounds which cannot be produced by conventional playing. Structure, form and timbre shift as the group renews its sound. The music opens up through active listening and silently electrifies.” Arild R. Andersen, Aftenposten
“....The final new release on Another Timbre is not by an ad-hoc group - common in this world of improvisation - but by a group that exists for a longer period, Looper. A trio of Ingar Zach (percussion), Martin Küchen (saxophone & pocket radio) and Nikos Veliotis (cello & video). This release (co-released with the Cathnor label actually) is the follow-up to 'Squarehorse' (see Vital Weekly 445). There is apparently a video part to their live music, which obviously is not present on the CD version, but the music can stand well by itself. Of the three new Another Timbre releases this is the one that sounds perhaps least improvised. Looper deals with a lot of sustaining sounds, played by all three and is, certainly in the long opening piece 'Grand Redhsift' very bass heavy. Sometimes small sounds come in, mainly it seems from Zach, but throughout its a fine mixture between drone like sounds and improvised music. Veliotis is the man of the drone like textures here, whereas the other two
Follow suit here, but occasionally play something else. Overall, I thought this CD was a more concentrated effort than the previous - but then in a six year gap a lot can happen. An excellent release.” Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
“The trio Looper consists of Nikos Veliotis, Martin Küchen, and Ingar Zach and their Dying Sun (at38, co-released with Cathnor as Cath012), omits any reference to the instruments played, though one will hear some sounds readily attributed to Veliotis’s usual cello, Küchen’s reeds, and Zach’s percussion, the latter an umbrella term that might take in much that’s heard here. The bulk of the CD is devoted to a near half-hour piece called “Grand Redshift,” as dense as it is quiet, with storms of sound that first assemble at the point of bare perception. At times a repeated oscillation will reveal an underlying instrumental identity as saxophone or cello, but the idea of disguise doesn’t seem relevant. In part, it’s the reduction of musical materials, the concentration on an isolated sound (call it scratch or tap or “extended technique”), the intense focusing on the timbre bit in which the personality of the sound and the chance polyrhythm with other sounds is paramount. The use of sustained sounds and heightened resonance may create a sense of the outdoors and there are points where “Grand Redshift” resembles a soundscape composition I’ve heard using a wharf, rather than music that has begun with conventional musical instruments (or ended: the envelope of an industrial scrape eventually reveals a cello). There are frequently repeated rhythmic patterns here that suggest Zach has assumed the conventional role of a drummer, but they also seem mechanical (the rhythms of clocks and sewing machines) or accidental, a sustained drip perhaps, including a long passage of accelerating polyrhythms in which rate and relations multiply. In part the achievement here is that a group of musicians go beyond the notion of the collective to suggest the sustained coherence of a place or a culture.” Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure
“The trio Looper are cellist Nikos Veliotis, saxophonist Martin Küchen and percussionist Ingar Zach, but Dying Sun – co-released with the Cathnor label – is terse chugging, neurotic sizzling, dull pounding, metallic hollowness, blank, mechanical and anonymous. This is the silence of exhaustion, the Beckettian burn-out of expression, the poetry of
having nothing to say and saying it.” Julian Cowley, The Wire
“Looper lines up of Nikos Veliotis, Martin Kuechen and Ingar Zach, people who are very much experienced as improvisers - this is why I always expect more. Droney soundtrack which bears an imprint of a conscious composition, timid and rigid, never on a strain of something outbursting and splashy. Great thing about this music is the mastery of the means - the instruments which give plenty of space for communication between the musicians as well as giving the lasting proof of their ingenious concept.I haven't heard such a well composed album in couple of months - brings best out of it.”
Hubert Napiorski, Felt Hat
“Dying Sun is the third recording by the international minimalist trio Looper, published by the labels Another Timbre and Cathnor. Composed of three tracks, this album doesn’t seem focused on improvisation; spontaneity is off the agenda, question, everything seems carefully calculated and deliberate. The first piece, Grand Redshift is an imposing 30-minute drone which feels at once static and alive. Some beats are added from time to time, slow or fast but always with a mechanical regularity. At times saxophone breaths are heard, or a radio crackles, or the cello is rubbed very slightly. That is roughly the ingredients that allow the music to live; they are scattered sporadically but rationally, they may be repeated or only appear once, but they are never free. Any intervention is completely at the service of music; there is no demonstration of virtuosity or individual expression. The music is thought of above all as a collective sound involving everyone, a total structure. That’s why the first pulses also announce the ending of the piece, as the drone progressively gives way to a mechanical percussion to which all of the trio contribute until it peters out. C'est pourquoi les premières pulsations annoncent aussi la fin de la pièce, car le drone, progressivement, se transforme en un battement mécanique auquel participe tout le trio jusqu'à son essoufflement.erefore the first beats also announce the end of the room as the drone, gradually turns into a mechanical beat that involves all the trio to its shortness.
The next piece, Hazy Dawn, which is much shorter (8 minutes), is also built on a sort of drone, but this time one which shifts much more, animated like a wave, with the natural regularity that this movement implies. The mood is still dark but without being either oppressive or stressful. Then the third piece Near Eternity leaves behind the mood of darkness which had dominated until now. A sharp but absolutely immobile line is maintained, to which ultra-low bass frequencies and various noises from Kuchen are added. The title of this piece could actually have been the album title, as the dilation of time in the music brings us closer to eternity.
Dilated time, cosmological and organic structures, a refined but rich language, an adventurous timbre, creates a music that is at once original and accessible. Because this trio of Swedish, Norwegian and Greek musicians has not come together to make a music that is autistically abstract; everything is played with sensitivity and is intended to be communicated and shared. This is a music that might seem cold and austere, but in fact still demands to be listened to and incorporated by others. Looper have learned how to create a language that is refined and abstract, but nonetheless very open and original, a language that is far from exhausted and seems to be constantly renewing itself.” Improv Sphere
“On their Web site, the trio Looper (Nikos Veliotis on cello and video, Ingar Zach on percussion, and the increasingly ubiquitous Martin Küchen on reeds) describes their work as follows: “Looper’s unique combination of floating sounds and multi-layered abstract visuals provides the spectator with a suspended intermedia environment to sink in, dislocating him from the casual perception of time and space.” They’ve previously documented the multi-media aspect of their work on a DVD in collaboration with John Tilbury, but this time out, the music stands on its own. Like the trio above, the three work with the construct of amassing textures and densities of sound, but here, the threads are far more enmeshed; utilizing extended drones, pulse, harmonics, and the interaction of overtones to create engulfing soundscapes. The 30-minute “Grand Redshift” starts with a coursing hum and gradually mounts in density, adding tolling gongs, hissing gusts of reeds, to the quavering overtone drones driven by a palpable oscillating thrum of low-end growls, groans, and muted roars. The densities are thicker and the details, darker, with individual lines of activity much less overt. Like Wunderkammern the notion of unfolding time is central to the music of Veliotis, Zach, and Küchen, but here, the propulsive undercurrents of pulse and looping patterns provide a connective thread that the lush soundscapes ride along. The two other pieces are shorter with “Hazy Dawn” driven by the beating shimmer of tam tam and cymbals and “Near Eternity” fluttering back and forth between signal, drone, and beating pulse with wafts of radio static and chatter and reed hisses woven in. Listening on speakers is key here as the sound envelops the room with the nuances of this trio’s soundscapes.” Michael Rosenstien, Signal to Noise
“I suppose one could describe the music as drone, but this certainly isn’t the nunc-stans of rhapsodic / ecstatic drone in the Eliane Radigue / La Monte Young tradition, for no one note is sustained throughout; instead, a shifting succession of low-end growls and wavering beating tones move from background to foreground, underneath little repetitive units, or, one might term them, ‘loops’: Zach’s elephantine rhythmics, swishes and washes and slow treads; Küchen’s saxophonic breaths, pocket-radio whispers, and shaver buzzes (in combination with the electronics, giving a foley effect); Veliotis’ back-of-throat-electronic rumble, and, sometimes, extreme bass-register cello playing, merged in with this. The tick-tocking aspect – shuddering, juddering, mechanical motion set unstoppably going – feels relentless and sometimes disturbing (depending at what volume you listen); most notably, a clicking sound, the ghost of a metronome or someone making a popping, clip-clopping sound with finger and cheek, and, towards the end of the first track, a really ferocious amplified thudding (shaver still swirling away somewhere underneath), Küchen’s sax doing little wails of protest or grief over the top. This sun is not dying in a glorious, orange sunset-blaze, but imploding, exploding, shattering into an on-setting darkness full of murmurs and buzzes and sinister whines, finally just coming to a sudden stop, the light going out like nothing other than a miniscule match. But then it begins again (track two), more buzzing machine-loop rhythms, distant gong beat, pitched saxophone breath in between the two sets of sounds. The elements remain largely the same, volume rising, Küchen switching saxophone for the interference buzz of the pocket radio, gong swelling gradually upwards, wave upon wave, that initial machine-loop on and on like a buzzing insect, trapped in a light, slowly frying for the purposes of art in the manner of Damian Hirst’s ‘A Thousand Years’. Any temptation to rise to noise-levels, to thrust one really deep inside the insect-o-cutor, is avoided, and when the track finishes after only nine minutes it feels to have fairly flown by. And so back to droning, ritualistic tread for the final piece: bass drum trotting out a regular thud, radio on held whine, electronics pushed to the back, shuddering with the drum’s acoustic vibrations, Küchen’s breathing this time more subdued, human edge furring implacability of the others’ repetitive slow march. Now drum stops, drone bathing stereo picture, Zach chiming gongs, radio whine still holding, then suddenly stopping too; quieter, higher-pitched drones, pulse-like thud (electronics? drum?) fading out, as if the natural rhythm of one’s own ear, one’s own pulse were taking over from the music. The album as a whole feels fairly short, the last two tracks miniatures after the serious rumblings of the first - and that’s surely testament to the way the group can sustain one’s interest with a fairly bare palette of sounds. A sober little listen, then, worth amping up the volume to feel the full effect; something of a downer perhaps, not nearly as serene as track titles like ‘Hazy Dawn’ or ‘Near Eternity’ might suggest, and, arguably, all the better for it.”
David Grundy, Eartrip
at38 dying sun
Looper (Martin Küchen / Nikos Veliotis / Ingar Zach)
1. grand redshift
2. hazy dawn
3. near eternity
recorded in Albi, France, January 2010