The Pitch & Splitter Orchestra

Frozen Orchestra (Splitter)
Mikroton Recordings cd 61

Performing nearly ego-less group music is an indomitable task as combos like AMM and other reductionist ensembles have found. Imagine trying to do the same for a 23-person aggregation. That’s the challenge realized on this fine CD. Played by a combination of two Berlin-based bands, the Pitch quartet and the 19-member Splitter Orchestra this exactly-one-hour piece moves in a chiaroscuro-like fashion as reeds, brass, strings and electronics intermix for a program that is both languorous and fluid. The upshot is persuasive despite an interface that makes instrumental identification only briefly possible.

Pointillist in execution “Frozen Orchestra” begins with tonal undulations stretching out in a chromatic fashion, with the odd, usually piano or sometime vibraphone, patterns appearing like buoys in undulating, ever-flowing waves. Meanwhile the undulating drones produced by architecturally massing contributions from all the participants thickens and as slowly move upwards in pitch, so that mid-way through the track the addition of crackling static and buzzing electronic pulses to harmonized reeds makes the sound even more ferocious and violent. Although at points notes from one or more of the three keyboard-like players cut a short path through the crunching electronic curtain, the effect is presented in microtonal traces rather than as a full sequence. Eventually keyboard cadences signal that an early crescendo of unexpected pan-tonal loudness has been reached and is further strengthened by granular synthesis from the electronics. Having attained the solid mass of a Sun Ra Arkestra-like space chord, guitar and vibes timbres calm the program. Backing into a postlude with a low-pitched burr from the reeds and percussion thumps, the massed drone is succeeded by near-thematic clear piano lines which oscillations finally dissolving rather than ending conclusively..

In spite of the near low-energy twists and turns, listener absorption has been maintained throughout the 60 minutes, even if only to monitor what comes next within the muted performance. The conclusion and demarcation conclusively proves that speed and noise is not necessary to create high quality music.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Frozen Orchestra (Splitter) Composed by the Pitch

Personnel: Axel Dörner (trumpet); Matthias Müller (trombone); Robin Hayward (microtonal tuba); Sabine Vogel (flute); Kai Fagaschinski, Michael Thieke (clarinet); Anat Cohavi, Chris Heenan (bass clarinet); Simon James Phillips (piano); Andrea Neumann (inside piano, mixing board); Magda Mayas (clavinet); Boris Baltschun (electric pump organ); Julia Reidy (guitar); Biliana Voutchkova (violin); Anthea Caddy (cello); Mike Majkowski, Koen Nutters, (bass); Morten J. Olsen (vibraphone, percussion); Burkhard Beins, Steve Heather (percussion); Marta Zapparoli (tape recorder, tape machine); Mario De Vega (oscillators, electronics); Ignaz Schick (turntables, electronics)