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Christof Kurzmann - The Air Between

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Artist: Christof Kurzmann

Album: The Air Between

Label: Charhizma

Review date: Sep. 9, 2003

Of Men and Missiles

There are two schools of thought toward art that can be, with some measure of clarity, identified by external subject matter. The first disregards the work as “pedestrian,” “simple,” or “insipid,” with little or no substance left to the imagination. This group can often be found in tea bars arguing the secondary implications of preposition use in a Kafka work. The other crowd is at home with what is given to them, pleased that there is some secondary connotation from which to glean insight in this eternal pursuit of understanding and the science of aesthetic interconnectivity. For the record, I lie unashamedly in the middle, though I’m more at home on my own patio than in a tea bar.

In the satisfying task of absorbing Christof Kurzmann’s new solo project, I immediately felt connected with the work on a number of levels. I was surprised to learn that the inspiration for the music was the early days of the United States’ current war in the Middle East. I was unsurprised to learn that Kurzmann is a detractor of the American position and its actions, as so many figures in this business are. Be that as it may, the War Against Iraqi Evil has bestowed upon us a moving portrait of aggression vs. submission under the guise of transition, all channeled by way of Kurzmann and his own electronic arsenal. His wishes that protest “would eventually lead to a production that would rise up out of the tragic events in a triumphant hymn of human will and intention” is perhaps more wishful thinking tale than reality – have anti-war protests amounted to much in the current political climate? But then returning to the music, to dwell any further on political rhetoric is to see a dark, infinite forest rather than those few clichéd trees.

It is important to remember that a creator can not account for every second, brush stroke, or differentials of light and shade in his artistic work. That stuff is best left to mathematicians. Creating music is a dance of perseverance in the face of the looming self, largely hindered (or aided) by the subconscious. In that light, Kurzmann has brought to us a selfless 45 minutes of sound that defies the very boundaries of a cathartic form of music – which still has its own restrictions, I might add.

The opening ten minutes of The Air Between, using repetitious clicks and static to create an inescapable sense of tension, transport the listener to a place on the cusp of cacophony. Quadraphonic swirls of synthesized bass abstractly suggest distant air raid sirens. Looped samples of electronic whirrs and gentle flurries of white noise become fixtures rather than function as intermittent slices of color and contrast. One can imagine the distant rumble of tank treads kneading earth in several sections, ominous underneath the larger, infrequent tones. There is a sense of replication rarely heard in new forms of improvisation. The music contains long percussive sequences, unusual incorporations of rhythm, and curious signatures; Kurzmann’s samples often involve chunks of lightweight noise rather than meticulously crafted, cured, or determinate lengths and shapes of a sine wave. Ambient specks (possibly unaccounted) find their way into these patterns, which, when repeated, create wonderful models of polyrhythms unlikely to be heard elsewhere. The disc is has vivid areas that can be attributed to tangible real-world events, such as air being restructured by a missile’s trajectory at supersonic speeds. Or anti-aircraft smoke and shrapnel materializing against its own explosive birth.

There is nothing pretty about the images evoked and translated above. The context and inspiration are serious matters, as are the sentiments of the musician. Kurzmann saw fit to use Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Letter to Bush” as the accompanying text to his disc. While unbalanced and written with more passion than concentrated persuasion, the letter, and the music, reminds us that political matters are not just a platform for vitriol and hate-spewing on cable news networks. They are matters that somehow find their way into a person’s livelihood, important enough to risk all that is associated with voicing a political stance. The Air Between stands completely on its own and Kurzmann should be applauded for the confidence that comes with such a unique statement.

By Alan Jones

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