p.o.p.

Ikebana
FMR CD 432-1116

Like radical flower arrangers, the musicians who make up p.o.p. – or psychology of perception – fine tune the bouquet slightly by the addition of a new posy in the form(s) of the French horn and voice of Elena Kakaliagou. The resulting garland still includes the night shade-like textures of earlier clusters, but adds some burnished chlorophyll-like tremors from both the new quartet member and in the response of the earlier three. An Austrian-Greek musician, Kakaliagou moves between improvisation and composition and has been part of the conceptual zeitkratzer ensemble directed by German pianist Reinhold Friedl, a p.o.p founder. The other players are also German: cellist Nora Krahl, another zeitkratzer denizen and electric bassist Hannes Strobl, who plays in a group with David Moss.

Named for eight distinct flower arrangements, Ikebana’s compositions by Friedl and Strobl are merely descriptive by inference. There are no hints of embroidered or flowery arrangements throughout. Instead like the mass and thickness of wood, the instrumental blending contrasts the languid unfolding of rooted themes with sprightlier cascades, blows and jitters designed to mark detours and indirect approaches.

Thickly organized rumbles projected from electric bass and inner piano string plucks define this against-the-grain approach on “Morimono”. The resolution arrives as brass plunger tones and metallic impulses narrow the theme to such a torpid pace that every sonic granule receives the equivalent of microscopic examination. In contrast “Chabana” begins and remains minimalist as the shimmering undulations from horn slurs and piano string jiggle s from inserted objects are more sensed that heard, finally dovetailing into a seemingly indivisible clusters.

P.o.p. or pride-of-place however should go to the centrepieces that are the extended “Nageira” and the final “Moribana”. The first is a contrapuntal expression between vocal humming on one edge and cymbals vibrating on top of inner piano strings on the other, finally enhanced sophisticatedly as the resulting sound pans from one side to another. Later on, vocal warbles reassert the narrative’s chromatic direction despite firm slaps on electrified strings and firecracker-like staccato explosions from deep inside the piano. As for “Moribana”, undifferentiated whinnying swells from near inaudible to stentorian textures. As each of the affiliated players’ expressions turns inwards, this new individuality defines the theme which buzzes with power at the same time as it reveals a collective will.

Ikebana’s sonic afterimage is a perception that expressive sound can attain a notable definition without having to resort to common melodic or rhythmic expectations.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Shoka 2. Rikka 3. Nageira 4. Chabana 5. Shimentei 6. Morimono 7. Jikuka 8. Moribana

Personnel: Elena Kakaliagou (French horn, voice); Reinhold Friedl (piano); Nora Krahl (cello) and Hannes Strobl (electric bass)