The liner notes describe the village in the cover photo as "bleak but oddly beautiful". That pretty much sums up the music itself as well. Dark and dire but somehow shining as well. An engaging experience.
Favorite track: Ritual Defamation.
Berlin, cold spring, after a gig with a mystery round the corner, with footsteps from unknown relatives of dead soldiers and dead civilians passing, she accuses me of the owl trick, of the "schmerz-Mensch"-fakery, brutally drunk she claims she is tired of it all...somehow shocked I try to get it through to her that that's the way I look when I play - I didn't think of it as a kind of pain faking pose... In a taxi later, driving through the streets of the NEW Berlin of 2012, I couldn't help thinking I am using this subject of WAR for obscure reasons... You know, "why the fkk..." etc.
"Hellstorm - Man erkennt langsam das Elend, dass über uns gekommen ist" - has again THAT theme in its title. A line from my father´s unpublished war diary, penned in January 1945. And a dedication to the american author Thomas Goodrich for writing the immensely important historical book, "Hellstorm". That theme. That Temata. But only there. The music stands aside, the music does not want to have anything whatsoever to do with it, but still I am forcing the titles, like some kind of strange lyrics put to an illiteral melody, to be there. I had a need to do this record. Obviously. We went into this big Church in Lund, Sweden, me and Jakob, and it was a cold, snowy winter. And we had to work quick. Which we did. Each tune, one take. Maybe also the film, "Germany Year Zero", by Roberto Rossellini, had to be produced quickly since it was 1948 and the film was made in Berlin in ruins. Watch that film, please. "The Russia We Lost" is another film. Impossible to get hold of, though. Or can you find it for me? I have just seen extracts from it; the horrendous, hyper destructive long period of Bolschevism... And that this vinyl is released by Mathka in Krakow, Poland, a so called ex-communist country, which after the almost complete destruction that happened during WW2, had to suffer years of civil war and more camps filled up with Polish enemies and Germans en masse , until it could get its "communistic peace" in 1948 - maybe tells the story of how juxtaposed tales of suffering are, how interwoven our stories are. The same year, 1948, Roberto Rossellini made his film.
The theme? It's an ongoing study of family history. My father is getting old and I wonder if he has any real clue of what I am really doing or why...Do I know? But, what does it mean to really know? What is propaganda and what is not propaganda? Am I, still, a war in a child? Raging with unfullfilled longings? Fighting with needs established during another mental epoch, and therefore not "mine" at all? Am I not the child, but only the war? Representing the onslaught of children everywhere; suffering from missiles and house demolitions, their homes put to dust in an instant; or slowly, gradually, infecting their minds with virtual war game barbarisms 24 hours a day - and happily they, my adversaries, will eventually pull the trigger and blow my head off? Me, the war? Or myself the me? And do we really need to be more specific? I do think so. Regarding music. Regarding history. Regarding our speculatory future.
And, finally, what it might take to spell out what you have found is true, or might be the truth, and what you therefore can't suppress yet instead attempt to mould into some kind of "official knowledge". And by this very act of making knowledge available, sudden influential enemies arise and want to stop you from doing just that, at any cost, using any despicable means you can think of to reach their goal of silencing you - that's what the title, "Ritual Defamation", deals with.
" Hellstorm - Man erkannt langsam das Elend, dass über uns gekommen ist " is dedicated to the memory of Helga and Hilde Gerson and Ernst Gerson. Hilde and Helga Gerson have unknowingly, but with some kind of slow sub-earthly intent, helped financially to make this production possible.
-------- Martin Küchen
* * *
There’s always been a core of deep seriousness in Martin Küchen’s music, perhaps never more apparent than here. The cover photo, depicting a snowbound, bleak but oddly beautiful village taken along with the disc’s title (“Hellstorm”) and the allusions to conflict in the titles of the five pieces contained herein point toward an especially dark and fraught experience. A powerful one as well.
The opening track, “Allemagne Année Zero (Hellstorm)” might come as something of a surprise to listeners familiar with Küchen’s recent work but, to these ears, it may be the most powerful music I’ve yet to hear from him. His high-pitched baritone describes a threnody so sorrowful, so moving, the tampoura in the background lending an otherworldliness to the music that’s supremely affecting, though quantifying exactly how that’s manifested would be a fool’s errand. Knowing his work, it’s as though, beneath the scrabbling, gravel and other abstractions in his playing, this has been lurking all along, awaiting the appropriate time to burst forth and it does so stirringly.
The subsequent two tracks are perhaps more along the lines of what we’ve come to expect from Küchen, the first (“The Russia We Lost”) a ruthless reduction of his horn to a tube for conducting streams of breath and spittle, bleak as can be, while the second takes those breaths and adds ghost tones alongside, constructing yet another heartrending portrayal of grief, here that of the citizens of Sarajevo. One can easily hear a cold wind whistling between bombed out buildings. The soft, burbling eddies of “10,000 Jahre” lead to the final work, “Ritual Defamation (to Laird Wilcox)” wherein those same swirls are overlaid with keening, almost frantic squeals, the kind of sounds that, given what one knows of the sources for this recording’s ideas, become painfully difficult to listen to, morphing as they do into the cries of those murdered.
“Hellstorm” is a rare example of experimental music managing to refer directly to historical (and atrocious) events and yet deliver an emotional punch that’s not mitigated in any way, where the programmatic and abstract concerns, more often than not, blend into a powerful and moving whole, resolutely dealing with the real world.
-------- Brian Olewnick
released September 10, 2012
Martin Küchen: baritone saxophone, radio, alto saxophone, electronic tampoura, electric toothbrush
Recorded live in Allhelgonakyrkan, Lund, Sweden, on the 18th of December, 2010.