The pair seemed, on all these recordings, more interested in the properties of wood, the overtone range of the B-flat, and in the extension of experiments in dynamics and silence inaugurated by Roscoe Mitchell’s “TKHKE.” On this second release, comprised of five compositions that may be far more scripted than they initially sound, the pair both give voice to virtues of so-called “reductionism” but also – in the woody tones, the blending of timbre and overtones, and the anxious quaver of the sound – suggest something very much like Arnold Dreyblatt’s “excited” strings.
From the opening passages of “Niedere Arbeiten,” what’s more apparent is the flirtatious reference of the duo’s moniker, as they conjure a sound that’s both of place and of no place. They weave their way in and out of woody intervals that invoke The Magic I.D. and Neuschnee, but also toy with the melancholy of Mitteleuropa, playfully discarding snatches of song form here and there. The lengthy “Crystal Clear Fog” sounds the most like new music, with stacked overlapping tones, occasional bent notes, and a spare anxiousness of a sound that – as “pure” notes become harsh ones – is straining for release from within. It almost sounds like they are converting certain elements of clarinet traditions to the raw properties of the wood from which the instrument is fashioned, and from there ensconcing it in moss or lichen, the whole music like the sound of natality.
And yet it also, after the brief fragment “Dichtung und Wahrheit,” can sound very instrumental and constructed. Oddly, as on the superb “Amongst Dissidents,” it’s in these latter moments when their sound is least clarinet-like. (On this piece I hear accordion and amplifier feedback channeling Ligeti’s “Atmospheres.”) After this, the lonely quaver and tonal dissolution of “Sleep!” is like a bath, a John Carter solo piece on Quaaludes. Sink in and enjoy.