Taunus: Harriet

Harriet is the second album by Berlin-based steel string guitarists Jochen Briesen (aka Semuin) and Jan Thoben under the name Taunus. Almost a mini-album at thirty-three minutes, the follow-up to 2005's Malinche features more of that album's fingerpicking sparkle but expands upon it with instrumental enhancements from double bassist Derek Shirley, clarinetist Michael Thieke, vibraphone player Wilm Thoben, and guitarist F.S. Blumm.

In what could pass for a restrained Derek Bailey homage, “Dots & Lines” opens the disc with a meandering improv of guitar plucks over a low pedal point. “Luek” offers a ruminative acoustic guitar setting while outdoor field elements (duck quacks and flapping wings) transport “Hintern” beyond the studio. Thieke's woodsy clarinet offers a soothing complement to glistening guitar parts in “Concepts & Beliefs” (too bad the natural effect is spoiled by the inclusion of an artificial voice generator). The most memorable pieces are those with the richest arrangements: the lilting “Tramin,” with its sunlit, interlocking acoustic guitar lattices and its dual punctuation of vibes and double bass tones, and the rustic “Harriet,” whose distinctive mix of banjo, vibes, double bass, hand-claps, and acoustic guitars closes the set strongly. The folk song “Passers' Piece” also elaborately pairs a harmonium's wheeze with banjo, clarinet, acoustic guitars, and vocals. Named after Darwin 's lady freshwater turtle (who died in 2006 at the age of 175 years), Harriet is a modest and unpretentious recording but one not lacking in charm.

March 2008