Selected reviews about several projects

• Strøm – X
The word "Strøm" means electricity and for Gaudenz Bradutt (electronics, analog synthesizer) and Christian süller (electronics, contrabass clarinet), that may cover what they do, well, save, perhaps, the contrabass clarinet of course, which may not need electrical power. They already worked together as Strøm for fifteen years and they have played all over Europe and two of their previous releases where reviewed before (see Vital Weekly 682 and 836). I thought both previous release to be all right, but I found it on the safe side of improvised music. This new work, recorded in 2014 and 2015 shows Strøm in a less safe place, which works all the better for the end result I think. There is throughout quite an electronic feel to the music, much more than before, and it hisses and stutters all over the place. Maybe one could say there is a noise edge to the music, but that is over doing things. The music is certainly forceful and vibrant, with quite some intensity in the dynamic range. Maybe this has something to do with the origin of the material. I understand one of these pieces is the original and the other six are "reworkings" of that, using extensively live sampling; maybe that explains the somewhat hit 'n scratch approach some of these piece have and that works quite well. It's a dynamic work of improvised musique concrete approaches, and so far their best album.
Frans de Waard – Vital Weekley 1027

• Strøm – fold
Hiding behind the moniker Strøm, the duo formed by Guadenz Badrutt and Christian Müller investigates abstract sound constructions, utilizing many stylistic approaches. In this latest work they have arrived at a greater minimalism that, in the layered patterns, is filled with a rather iterated and fascinating machinic lyricism , a density of clicks, audio micro-emergencies and digital interferences. These sounds are multiplied exponentially, though a certain equilibrium between the parts is retained, even as improvisationally-derived noise insertions are woven into rhythmical and pulsating sequences, thin drone concatenations and gentle glitch'n'cutting. Badrutt and Müller experiment with many instruments and methods, patiently modulating them, resulting in five tracks molded by a multiform mix of structures and "spastic sound multiplications" (the artists' definition). Listeners will become conscious of an operation carried out with care, one perhaps not completely the expression of a "superior form of musical thinking", but still rich in strong suggestions that never feel trite or unmediated. Appropriately, this album is released by Domizil, a label owned by Marcus Maeder and Bernd Schurer - a duo who always present their artists carefully and who focus on the themes of digital culture, its methods and its aesthetic context. For certain, not a label interested in publishing works lacking consistency.
Aurelio Cianciotta / Neural - Critical digital culture and media arts

• Strøm – shunt
Cocktail on the rocks / Meist sind Namen nicht mehr als bloße Platzhalter. Strøm, zu deutsch Strom, trifft die Sache aber ganz gut. Gaudenz Badrutt und Christian Müller schicken nicht nur eine Menge Elektronen auf die Reise, sie schaffen mit deren Hilfe auch etwas, das mit der Metapher des strömenden Flusses, eben des Stroms, gut zu fassen ist. Wie ein kleines Rinnsal beginnt needle bight mit zaghaften elektronischen "Hauchern" und einer springenden Schallplattennadel. Bäche und Nebenflüsse kommen später hinzu in Form von tiefen, ostinaten Drones, hohen, gleichsam sirrenden Klängen und auch die Mittellage ist gut vertreten durch runde, obertonarme Sinusklänge.
Strøm betonen die Arbeit mit analoger Technik und analogen Sounds. Den harschen Attacken, dem Hochglanz und der kühlen Perfektion des digitalen Prinzips stehen Badrutt und Müller skeptisch gegenüber. Unkalkulierbares, Rohes integrieren sie ganz bewusst. Auf dem Spieltisch angebrachte Kontaktmikrophone dienen der Integration mechanischer Spielgeräusche, etwa von handgetriggerten Effektgeräten: Zufall als Hauptsache, Periphäres als Katalysator, Fehler als Inspirationsquelle. Pierre Schaeffers sillon fermé, die geschlossenen Schallplattenrille in needle bight ist nicht der einzige Verweis – eher: Wink mit dem Zaunpfahl – auf die frühe Musique concrète. Parallelen gibt es auch da, wo Strøm auf die Abstraktheit ihrer Materialien achten. Konkreten "Weltbezug" vermeidet das Duo, instrumentale Reminiszenzen ebenso. Kurze Samples der Bassklarinette streuen sie zwar ein, meist jedoch bis zur Unkenntlichkeit verfremdet oder in kleine Samples zerhackt. Schaeffers Postulat nach einem "Vorrang des Ohrs" spielt eine große Rolle, indem kontinuierliche Prozesse gepflegt werden. Zeit zum Einhören bleibt.
Für jedes ihrer sieben Stücke wählt Strøm behutsam eine eigene, überschaubare Klangpalette. Im neunminütigen void breiten sie einen ostinat pulsierenden Teppich aus, auf dem sich rätselhaft flüchtige Einsprengsel bewegen, leicht verzerrte Sinustöne etwa, zaghaft knackende Impulse oder rhythmisierte Loops, die sich dem zu Grunde liegenden Teppich anzuschmiegen scheinen. tigerduck spiegelt deutlich das wieder, was Strøm in ihrer Selbsteinschätzung als "cocktail on the rocks" bezeichnen, "gemischt aus 2/3 avantgarde-klassik und 1/3 experimentellem rock".
Wohltuend hebt sich Strøm ab von Vertretern der Elektro- und vor allem Laptop Szene, die sich zu oft verlieren in einer Melange aus cool bis hipper Selbstdarstellung und kontinuierlichen Klangfluten, deren Unverbindlichkeit durch gehobenere Lautstärken kaschiert wird. Ein sich in zwei Richtungen verzweigender Strom ziert die unaufgeregte Karton-Verpackung der CD. Strøm wählen offensichtlich den besseren Weg.
Torsten Möller / Dissonanz

• Ad`Absurdum & Strøm - Infest
[...] Infest zeigt eine fantastische Zusammenarbeit der zwei Bands, über deren Verlauf sie ihre Vielseitigkeit zeigen, von sublimen, sommerlichen Vibes zu intensiven Psychouts, bis über erstklassigen Krautrock. Ein spannender Ausflug in die Avantgarde. Sie machen dieser Art von Musik alle Ehre.
Spitzezunge Rockblog

[...] Schweres Vinyl, Sticker. Die LP läuft von innen nach außen! Was für ein Synapsenforderer dieses Album ist, zeigt nicht nur die Pressung. Schweizer Extravaganz von 2 renommierten Free/Noise/Psych/Krautbands aus Biel. Nur ihrer eigenen sperrigen, unterbewußten Logik ist dieses Kollektiv unterworfen: enigmatisch, fordernd und faszinierend, was die Intensitäten angeht. Abstrakte Geräuschflächen werden zu umtosten Sturmflächen gewandelt: Seite 1. kommt mit beinahe rhythmusloser Maschinenhallsymphonie aus: Metallmusik mit freier Umgarnung von Free JazzRock, musique concrete und Industrial, unterteilt in 2 Parts, während die 2.Seite eines der gewaltigsten Crescdendi der neueren Zeit vorzuweisen hat, eine quasi-Rockband greift nach den Sternen und dies so gewaltig, als sei der Kosmos nahe. Leise Drones, dann infernalisch bei Expo 70, Bardo Pond, frühen Mogwai, Ash Ra Tempel: Synthies, zyklische Doppel-Rhythmen, Flüstersamples und himmlische Vibrationen zwischen Post-und Krautrock. Das sperrigste, aber unfassbarste Tonzonen-Release so far.
Flight 13 Mailorder

• DEER – One
Hans Koch, Christian Müller et Silber Ingold – Biennois aux clarinettes basses augmentées par l'usage de machines – prennent, pour leur première collaboration sous le nom de DEER, le prétexte d'une note unique, que l'on dira de concordance et soupçonnera hommage au brame.
Non pas de synthèse même si ondulante, non pas de didgeridoo même si endurante : la note tremble et dessine des vagues que le ressac nourrira d'éclats ornementaux et vivifiants, le drone et son lent retournement provoquant une série de glissements et de roulements qui se jouent autant des surfaces que d'un espace qu'ils renversent dans son entier. Nombreuses et pas toutes perceptibles, les couches qui composent One en font un ouvrage fascinant, accaparant même.
Guillaume Belhomme / Le son du grisli

• Convulsif - IV
[...] After the blackened mindfuck, (in a good way), that was CD3, Convulsif return with something a bit different that’s actually superior. It’s mostly instrumental, dark and surprisingly addictive. Featuring bass, clarinet, violin and drums, this is an experimental foray into noise and unusual Rock. These instruments come together in a variety of ways to produce music that is always trying to push the envelope and always manages to be emotive, in one fashion or another. … IV can still be dark and foreboding when it wants to, as well as displaying any number of other moods. Instead, this release has an even more diverse approach than its predecessor. Doom, Post-Rock, Black Metal and Grind are all merely ingredients to be liberally sprinkled around during these 37 minutes, and Convulsif leave few stones left unturned in their quest for sonic excess. Disturbing noises and unsettling vibes are frequently the order of business for IV, mixed in with Grindcore-level extremity and exploratory bludgeoning. Add in some Jazz and some sexy bass workouts and you end up with a compelling collection of twisted soundscapes that really succeed where such an eclectic, esoteric assortment of tracks could so easily fail. If you’re in mind for something a bit different that has a lot to offer, check out IV; you won’t regret it.
Wonderbox Metal – March 2016

• Convulsif - CD 3
[...] on connaît d’autres groupes de metal barré, si tant est que le terme de metal convienne, comme Monarch ! par exemple, qui est excellent (mais est-ce que ça existe encore ?) – mais c’est franchement bien, Convulsif. Et le fait que ce soit ramassé, un disque court, ajoute au côté virulent du projet. Et sa capacité d’ouverture aussi, sans aucun doute : au lieu de rester sur une recette ou une vision unique de la musique, ses membres sont présents dans nombre d’autres musiques, d’aujourd’hui, sans nostalgie. [...]
Kasper Toeplitz / Revue & Corrigé - June 2015

• Dürig/Müller/Heierli/Weber – Inventuren
A new Swiss label, Deszpot, just released their first two albums. This one is a poem/music hybrid. Poet Regina Dürig reads her poems (in German), backed by improvisations by Christian Müller (contrabass clarinet, electronics), Frank Heierli (cello) and Beni Weber (percussion, electronics). 24 poems, all cast in the same mold: "[x] exists." Rich imagery, interesting ideas, but the form and the delivery are repetitive (I understand very little German, but I was provided with English translations of a few poems). The music goes through a deconstruction process in the course of these 24 short tracks, from acoustic and near melodic improvisation to increasinly fragmented, chopped works polluted by electronics. The language barrier is high, but the project is sound.
François Couture / Monsieur Délire

• IMO – Archive #1
Founded in September 2010, the Insub Meta Orchestra (IMO) is an ensemble composed of several dozen improvisers from Switzerland and beyond. The group first explored its possibilities in seven separate concerts and then, in the summer of 2011, forty members hunkered down for a three-day musical marathon, which allowed it time and space to delve into a few pieces and explore the shifting line between orchestration and improvisation. The result of this group vision quest is Archive #1, a gripping electro-acoustic voyage that's a highly successful blend of intention and spontaneity.
IMO works with a broad palette of instrumentation, an intriguing mix that's elegantly presented and intertwined. This particular project includes traditional instruments such as saxophone, clarinet, trombone, guitar, cello, and bass; the less traditional spinet, accordion, banjo, and bouzouki; a few staples of the experimental including a theremin, laptop, and analog electronics; and the completely unexpected, namely a tennis racket and a typewriter. Although the music is produced partly by acoustic instruments, the overall sound is distinctly metallic; this is the poetry of machines, a praise song of metal and electronics.
Each of the six pieces has its own texture, but the CD works together as a whole to create an atmospheric suite. "Punkte und Flächen" starts with a breathy, sizzling sound, then moves slowly through a pregnant silence, adding slices of noise and blips of percussion and a whistling wind, gradually heating up into a clanking, furious intensity. "The Living Dust" is a deliciously eerie piece with a variety of mysterious sounds simmering just under the surface, while "Et si..." is centered around a drawn-out high pitch that provides a base for a variety of sounds that come and go. The group's dance with the pitch is an excellent example of its ability to set off everyday sounds and allow them to be heard anew.
"Lava Underground" is a marvelous subterranean piece that grows in menace and slowly builds a burgeoning wall of sound, and "Miroir" (French for "mirror" or "glass") incorporates bits of a human voice, as well as the aforementioned typewriter. The CD closes with "Set Sail, Finally," an airy, eleven-minute song that simmers with potency. The sounds include isolated notes, clacking percussion, crying strings, and another visit from that underrated instrument, the typewriter. The sounds weave together throughout the piece, mostly in quick snippets, sometimes as sustained drones, and other times as shimmering fields, altogether creating a splendid meditation on space and noise.
One of the beauties of this music is how malleable it is to the imagination. The sounds are whatever you like: neurons firing, an iceberg shifting, computers talking back, a lawnmower gone rogue—anything is possible. This music is mysterious and perhaps mystical as well. Archive #1 is a remarkable achievement, a genuine sonic adventure that celebrates the pleasures of the unknown and the known, and reveals ever-deeper realms of musical possibility.
Florence Wetzel / Allaboutjazz

• Ryoko Akama - Places And Pages / Actualised by Ryoko Akama, Cristián Alvear, Cyril Bondi, d’incise, Christian Müller and Stefan Thut
The Another Timbre label has been on quite a creative and successful roll lately and the newest batch of five releases continues that happy trend. My favourite of the bunch might be Ryoko Akama's 'places and pages', a 2-disc set of 45 actualizations of her scores that maintains an amazing level of variety and imagination over its course, endlessly surprising and enthralling.
Brian Olewnick

"I like to be surprised". Ryoko Akama expressed this sentiment in an interview published on the Another Timbre website. It handily explains why a composer might devote herself to scores that don’t necessarily specify how the music should sound, and also why this 50 track record, spread across 2 CDs and a bonus download, sounds so diverse.
Places and Pages documents the realisation of a notebook full of text scores that Akama originally prepared for a concert with classical guitarist Cristian Alvear at Tsonami Festival in Chile. The concert went well enough, but the duo decided that they needed a different place and more hands to do the material justice. They joined Swiss musicians Christian Müller (clarinet), Stefan Thut (cello), Cyril Bondi and d’incise for a ten-day residence in Geneva, playing the pieces around town and in the studio in combinations that range from one to all six musicians. Since the scores aren’t reproduced, listeners can’t know what provoked the musicians to make these generally short but quite diverse pieces. To compound the guesswork, the annotation tells you who played but not what instruments they used. There’s no mistaking Müller’s clarinet, Thut’s cello or Alvear’s guitar, but the other three are disinclined to confine themselves to a single instrument, or even to musical instruments at all.
But with such process oriented work, it’s hard to resist the temptation to try and decipher what’s going on. On ‘#27’ it’s pretty clear that Thut is dragging his cello on the ground while cars drive past, but is the joke in the score, or his interpretation of it? Why did Akama, Alvear and d’incise confine themselves to long filaments of feedback on ‘#28’? One suspects that d’incise is processing the others’ playing, since on several tracks where he is credited only one instrument is audible, but it is subject to King Tubby-level hard panning and reverb manipulation. We may never know, but in the process of guessing the listener gets to share in Akama’s pleasure.
Bill Meyer / The Wire

The place could be an empty room; a quiet street corner; a fountain or waterfall; a huge echoey space. The sounds: reverberant cracks, lush organ drone, quiet whoosh of distant traffic, tapping and banging, whistles and squeaks, accordion chords, low, rough gurgling, high-pitched whining, fast chirruping, guitar and clarinet notes, footsteps and voices, ringing like an old telephone, ringing like a fire alarm. The durations: from three seconds to around 12 minutes. The volume: mostly quiet, with some crescendos and diminuendos, and some bolder amplitudes here and there.
The structure of Ryoko Akama’s "places and pages", consisting as it does of a large number of mostly short, seemingly unrelated pieces, suggests a collection of scribbled notes and brief jottings accumulated over time. An interview with the composer on the Another Timbre label website sets the record straight: the text scores behind each piece were each carefully developed and thought through with performance in mind. Reassembled here are the crew who performed Taku Sugimoto’s ‘mada’ so beautifully — Akama, Cristián Alvear, d’incise, and Cyril Bondi — with the addition of Christian Müller and Stefan Thut. Together they perform the pieces with the sort of balance between sensitive openness and calm precision I’ve come to expect from these musicians.
There is some wonderful music here: at the moment I’m especially taken by the unhurried two-note pattern of "places and pages 11", the rough minor-key tonality of "places and pages 24", and the rushing of water and distant voices of "places and pages 32".
Nathan Thomas / Fluid Radio

• Jonas Kocher - Duos
[...] Les trois dernières pièces en compagnie d'Urs Leimgruber (saxophone soprano qu'on a déjà pu entendre dans la formation OM), Christoph Schiller (espinette) et Christian Müller (clarinette contrebasse) sont peut-être les plus claires quant à ce qu'il ressort de Jonas Kocher: un intérêt pour les extrémités de l'ambitus, pour explorer les zones les plus reculées de l'instrument, mais aussi un intérêt pour la dynamique que génère tel ou tel type de jeu. [...] En tout cas, les six pièces présentées ici révèlent chacune une personnalité sensible et une recherche constante d'un son précis et neuf. Beau travail.
Julien Héraud / Improv Sphere

• Low Pass Boogie – Live
[...] Was anfänglich wie Spurensuche und streckenweise verirrtes Herantasten daherkam, entpuppte sich immer mehr zu einem wahren High Noon. Da erzeugte Zumthor ein Perkussionsgewitter, um daraufhin in sanfte Tupfer abzugleiten, damit eine Spannung erzeugend, die Müller aufnahm und dagegenhielt. Christian Müller ist ein Könner im Umgang mit seinem PC. Seine durchgeführten Feinabstimmungen zwischen Bassklarinette und Computer, vordergründig unkoordiniertes Suchen, erwiesen sich im Grunde aber als Verwirklichen eines klar definierten Planes: das Salz im High Noon Müller-Zumthor. [...]"
Domenic Buchli / Bündner Tagblatt