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Will Guthrie, Matthew Earle and Adam Süssmann - Untitled

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Artist: Will Guthrie, Matthew Earle and Adam Süssmann

Album: Untitled

Label: Document

Review date: Feb. 16, 2005

Will Guthrie, Matthew Earle and Adam Süssmann are part of a new breed of Australian improvisers that manage to draw singular conclusions through engagement with the work of their overseas peers. Earle and Süssmann collaborate as the Stasis Duo, where their emptied-out mixing desks and samplers re-route the logic of the Onkyo order; Süssmann also improvises for acoustic and electric guitar. Guthrie has released several discs of solo percussion. This current batch of discs shows the artists in the finest light, capturing their aesthetic with an almost forbidding clarity, and there’s something appropriate about the minimal packaging of the releases on Süssmann’s Document label – simple white cardstock and pragmatic stamps.

On the second release by the Guthrie / Süssmann / Earle trio, the players let their improvisations simmer. The first piece has Earle’s piercing volleys of electronic click and chatter continually pulling the rug from under Guthrie’s rolling, mechanized percussion. Süssmann places dull thuds and the odd fragmented chord perfectly, as though resting each sound atop a haphazardly balanced structure. The second piece was recorded on 2SER FM as part of the Radio Alice program. Word has it that Earle and Süssmann use their radio show as a space to improvise in a semi-public fashion, sending the week’s findings out over the airwaves. You can hear them sifting through options on this track, eliciting from their instruments a torrent of sound events demarcated by decisive cut-offs and pregnant pauses. Earle’s solo disc catches a few pure tones and lets them spill from empty equipment. It’s an austere listen that requires an exacting patience: when Earle introduces a second tone during the second piece, it’s momentarily startling. But the final 40-minute track is the biggest puzzle, so distant and quiet you wonder whether it’s actually present. Turning the stereo up to burn-out level, I heard a faint trill peeking in and out of the speaker hiss, but that could just be a ghost tone, determined by the self. Earle’s vigilance is admirable.

Süssmann’s solo disc, Acoustic Guitar Solo, is the real revelation. Comprising two tracks, and clocking less than 25 minutes, Acoustic Guitar Solo is all about the extremities of the instrument. The opening track is densely packed and shrill, with Süssmann cracking the acoustic guitar open to reveal its gnarled and tough innards, a muted bass drone that’s sheared by a set of impossibly sharp and resonant razors. It is fierce stuff, but much like the best Japanese noise, there’s a calm you can source in the midst of it all, as Süssmann takes a leisurely approach to development. The second piece is pure tone hypnotism, with Süssmann’s previous scouring resolved to the singing of sine waves. Acoustic Guitar Solo is a completely heavy document, quite unlike anything you’d expect, and it feels like the next quantum leap for acoustic guitar improvisation after Annette Krebs’ Guitar Solo. It’s that revelatory.

By Jon Dale

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