THE GOLDEN MEAN
A SWEET QUASIMODO BETWEEN BLACK VAMPIRE BUTTERFLIES FOR MAYBECK
Perlonex with Keith Rowe/Charlemagne Palestine
Once upon a time buying a Charlemagne Palestine LP without resorting to a bank loan was the stuff of dreams.. It seems nowadays we’re virtually forced to select keepers from the batches of CDs that appear each month. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. For the record, I wouldn’t give away anything from my Palestine collection (except Karenina). And certainly not The Golden Mean, which comes in a limited edition of 1000 copies with a soft velvet cover [comes in five different colours – mine’s orange, what’s yours Massimo?-Ed.]. The performance was captured at la Chapelle de la Sorbonne in Paris, 1979 and finds Palestine sitting between two Bösendorfers (the photo makes him look like Keith Emerson) in search of the Holy Grail of overtone contrast. The music comes very close to the spirit of this minimalist maverick’s old masterpieces, whose repeated middle Cs, with gradually increasing intensity and the addition of adjacent semitones, slowly develop into ear-caressing domes of clusters and chords that shine like water droplets dangling from a rainbow’s arc. It’s a magnificent work, one that puts the listener in peace with life for about 40 minutes and totally justifies the long wait that loyal Palestine followers have had to endure after Shiiin announced its release as “imminent” – at the beginning of last year.
A Sweet Quasimodo.. is another performance for two pianos, this time recorded in Maybeck studio (Berkeley, California) in 2006. Palestine begins with a short spoken introduction, also rubbing harmonics out of a glass of cognac and vocalizing in his own unique falsetto. Then the piece begins, and what we get is definitely less serene than The Golden Mean, but still engrossing. Starting with the usual reiteration of solitary notes, Palestine builds in a dynamic process that’s almost violent at times, a breath-like, come-and-go cycle of superimposed dissonances that ends with a long silence and a few final words before the applause. As always, you’ve got to play the thing quite loud to perceive the high resonances fighting and embracing, which is what Palestine’s music is all about. At a first listen, I found it somewhat detached and less inspired, but repeated spins convince me of its staying power.
Perlonex is the Berlin-based trio of Ignaz Schick (turntables, live electronics), Jorg Maria Zeger (electric guitars) and Burkhard Beins (percussion, objects). For their fifth anniversary concert, held at Podewil in 2004, they invited Keith Rowe and Charlemagne Palestine to join them, and the results, heard in Tensions, are exactly what one would expect from these musicians. The first disc features Rowe, who seems completely absorbed in the group’s music, in a slow, if uneasy mantra that inches forward to become unbearably strained and edgy at midpoint, with its necessary frictions and ruptures, but with all the players involved showing an accomplished sense of sound placement and interaction. The set with Palestine has its moments, too, but while the American’s synthesized waves mesh well with Perlonex’s dynamics, his piano is completely out of context at times: the tolling chords he hits with all his might struggle to get heard (at least in this particular mix), often seeming more superfluous than complementary. Still, there are enough transcendental, mesmerizing sections where the four instruments fuse into one to make it worth keeping.