September 23, 2017
George Hadow/Dirk Serries
Raw Tonk Records RT 026
Opposites attract. At least that’s the message that’s reflected in these two stripped down guitar-drums session. XenoFox, consisting of German guitarist Olaf Rupp and Austrian drummer Rudi Fischerlehner and the duo of Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries plus Brit-in-Amsterdam drummer George Hadow have come up with archetypal CDs which fully synthesize the power of light and dark timbres. Like examining a wall-sized canvas of an 18th century Arcadian scene where crucial scene-setting can be glimpsed in the darkened edges of the painting as well as the luminescent action in the foreground, both duos are singular in detailing improvisations at many pitches and speeds.
Initially a trio with trombonist Matthias Müller, the six selections by the now stripped down XenoFox still project the sonic qualities reflected in the title of an old Esther Phillips LP: from a whisper to a scream. Over the course of six extended tracks tropes as different as ricocheting arena-filling guitar flanges and equivalently resonating drum beats to subtle slurred fingering and muffled stick pops describe equal moods and temperaments, played with equal skill. I’s no surprise that the duo’s other collaborators has ranged from Peter Brötzmann to Julie Sassoon.
A narrative such as “Zeitforschung” for instance begins with microtones from each until Fischerlehner’s clashes and clumps turn noisy and busy in response to Rupp’s speedy rappel up the guitar neck, revealing new layers of sound. Slick cymbal buzzing underlines the fretboard explorations even as the dissected percussion rhythm serves as continuum. From the opposite direction, “Arizona Dream” parlays drum-top lacerations and slurred string fingering into a series of variations that intensely stretch the theme so that harp-like decorations from Rupp and the drummer’s shuffle beat are more obvious. Minuscule excision as if digging into the instruments’ entrails from the guitarist produces a melding of choked string pulling and hushed press rolls until an electricity fueled flat line signals the ending.
“HKW 2026”, which wraps up the set, is the most extended example. Percussion rattles and a shuffle beat plus reverb stretching from tightened tuning pegs into shrilling pitches threatens to mutate the program beyond recognition until the piece is steadied with clock-like reverberations that translate into tones squeezed to the point of inaudibility. With the pressure-released finale more felt than heard, the session dissolves into an afterglow of remembered textures.
Similar sonic alchemy is evident on “Outermisssion”, but with 11 tracks compressed into 37 minutes – Hundred Beginnings is 71 minutes long – conciseness is another characteristic. With drummer Harrow, who in the past has worked with the likes of John Dikeman and Wilbert de Joode on board, Serries whose output runs from Hardf Rock sessions to partnership with Scandinavian ambient duo Yodok, appears to have achieved attained the goal of playing like Jimmy Page and Derek Bailey in subsequent nanoseconds. In truth like the hell-raiser buried in a conventional citizen’s past, even the Metal emulations are muted. Prime instance of this is “Apart”, where Serries’ speedy, knife-sharp and wah-wah pedal-pushed expansions are seconded by Hadow’s juicy drum pops. Still this tune and the following “Leeg”, include unexpected atonal trails from the guitarist that relate more definitely to Free Music experimentation. Chameleon-like however by “Slate”, the following tune the drummer’s scratch-shuffle beat and disconnected tone emphasis from Serries could easily be slipped into any Company disc with little disruption. These same characteristics slip into the following “Open” to confirm that silence saturated creations, based in this case on bass note reverb and foreshortened rim shots, can express emotions with nuance rather than bombast. “Out”, the longest and most minimalist track is dominated by wooden clicks, air resonations, crackles and cracks that could come from either instrument.
Again like Rupp and Fischerlehner, albeit in a more extensive fashion, Serries and Hadow realize that a muted finale is as prominent by inference as a noisy one. They prove this on the final “Remission” where guitar string jangling and intermittent drum beats add up to a crescendo of quiet tones that define their mastery.
XenoFox’s CD is entitled Hundred Beginnings. All in all it’s evident that both duos here can express many more beginnings – and completions – they can record.
Track Listing: Hundred: 1. Another End Of Humanity 2. Zeitforschung 3. DNA 4. Arizona Dream 5. Hundred Beginnings 6. HKW 2026
Personnel: Hundred: Olaf Rupp (guitar) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Outermisssion: 1. Narrow 2. Cross 3. Out 4. Call 5. Apart 6. Leeg 7. Slate 8. Open 9. Night 10. Tear 11. Remission
Personnel: Outermisssion: Dirk Serries (guitar) and George Hadow (drums)