Jason Bivins on “Extinguishment” at Point Of Departure

“On each of these pieces, the mechanical and the environmental blend together provocatively, giving a clear (but ever changing) sense of dimension and palpability to this music.”


(entire writeup pasted below)

“This quizzically named outfit is comprised solely of Billy Gomberg and Anne Guthrie. Each specializes in a particular instrument (Gomberg the bass guitar and Guthrie the French horn) while also doing considerable work with electronics and recordings, not so much in manipulating the sound of said instrument as in atmospheric conjuration, environmental collage. Many readers will be familiar with Guthrie’s achievements in this area, on an impressive string of recordings under her name. Gomberg has recorded somewhat less frequently, though his collaborations with Richard Kamerman and others are well worth investigation.

Fraufraulein themselves have been quietly prolific over the last half-decade or so. Based on the quality and suggestiveness of their music here, three tracks culled from a four-date (mostly Midwestern) tour last year, it’d be a shame if they didn’t get more attention than currently seems to be the case. On each of these pieces, the mechanical and the environmental blend together provocatively, giving a clear (but ever changing) sense of dimension and palpability to this music. One key to this is the persistent use of a full, resonant lower register, something that immediately stands out on “convention of moss.” There is a slow accretion of whines, then a blossoming to reveal lapping waves, voices across the gymnasium (which eventually seem to morph into some national anthem), subtle bells and arpeggios.

These kinds of transformations, with regular curve balls that cue up subsequent parallel or perpendicular courses of development, mark these performances. They might linger, almost languidly, in a particular atmosphere before a sonic shift – a stone turntable slowing down, for example – suddenly emerges as jarring. In some places, as with “whalebone in a treeless landscape,” the music is quite spare, the sound of string resonators and aerophones possessing an organic essence that makes it sound as if they were invented for some hidden culture’s ritual. What’s especially remarkable about this piece, though, is how it shifts from these beginnings to impart the sense of being deep in the hold of some marine vessel. For the closing “my left hand, your right hand,” one hears what sounds like someone chanting plainsong while a rattle is held on an ebowed string, the whole giving off serious overtones of Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titanic. Here we really hear amp reverb and atmospherics, and Guthrie’s descent into the Bill Dixon horn echosphere, as paper and woodblocks are dropped to the floor of a haunted factory filled with the sound of chimes.

As the above observations make clear, Fraufraulein’s music is much more unapologetically imagistic (if that makes sense) than much of the other stuff in this general area, even if it seems to problematize its referential range by being so furtive and so unpredictable in its juxtapositions. But whatever your take on that particular interrogation of voice, instrument, and reference, the sounds here are compelling in their immediacy, and don’t require any conceptual investment.” -Jason Bivins

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