Kammerflimmer Kollektief: Hysteria

Hysteria was released a few years ago by the Kammerflimmer Kollektief (“The Shimmering Collective” in German) as a six-track mini-album but is now re-issued with extra material. Ostensibly masterminded by composer and guitarist Thomas Weber, the recording combines his solo pieces with ensemble tracks although all pieces sound like group works, with Weber imbuing the solo outings with a convincing spontaneity rarely heard in such constructions. The collective, Weber essentially augmented by sax, double bass, violin, electronics, drums, and percussion, pursues a style that's atmospheric and, in spite of clear compositional structures that often emerge, loose enough that at times the music verges on free jazz, even sometimes of an incendiary sort.

The title track sets the tone immediately, as its repeating acoustic bass figure provides a stabilizing ground for the rapid violin plucks, electronic fuzz, guitar drones, and saxophone bleats that constellate around it. Gradually the flux is calmed by a piano and guitar that emerge to complement the warmth of the bass. Anchoring a piece with a repeating motif is a ploy Weber uses elsewhere—the noirish “Engel wacht,” for example, cycles a pendulous bass line throughout, while bell chimes and string tones grow to an enormous clatter, and an acoustic guitar adopts the role in the languid “Mohn!,” thereby allowing the bass to wend freely amidst sax interjections and guitar scrapings. But it's an effective trick nonetheless as it enables the compositions to strike a balance between structure and improvisation. When a given track veers too far in the latter direction (e.g., “Auguri, Auguri,” a soundscape of sax, violin, and electronic noises), the result seems a tad too self-indulgent. The mutant march “Seen (not seen)” is more convincing, with Dietrich Foth's saxophone histrionics accompanied by suitably loose-limbed drumming until the piece explodes into a powerful noisefest. The most impressive of the new pieces is “Du siehst hoch; du siehst „Wolken”.” where a lilting rhythm of bright guitar meanderings and a bubbling bass line segues into a dense propulsive mass. Surprisingly, the longest piece, an intense chordal dronescape, is supposedly a “version” of said track but it hardly sounds like it. While the freer pieces testify to the group's open-minded penchant for experimentalism, they're less successful than the more formally composed pieces. Regardless, Hysteria provides a convincing showcase for the Kammerflimmer Kollektief's skill at merging electronics, jazz, and studio manipulations into compelling instrumental soundscapes.

August 2004