When Lars Graugaard and Moritz Baumgärtner met in Berlin’s Samplehof Music Studio, they shared a strong curiosity and certain restless apprehension towards the journey they were about to embark upon. This was partly for the obvious reason that they had no material planned specifically for the session, but being highly skilled in free forms it was not a major concern. But what they very much felt was the potential for an unusual result, and one not readily compared to any of their previous projects. The unusual setting of drums and percussion accompanied by the musical interactions and sonic scenery of real-time electronics would further accentuate the challenge for structure and development, so all-important to any kind of music.
This certain trepidation provided a very open-ended atmosphere where textures suggested approaches that in turn would display a musical essence that gently attained the distinct profile of a song. Thus came about the big ballad Space Twist whereas Specweezer, Rubble Trouble and Out Of Print sprung from Moritz’ focus on a particular subset of his drum kit and arsenal of percussion instruments, extended and complemented by Lars’ digital convolutions. In Fourth Quolandrum and Benno’s Bounce they would dive into techno mutations where the slow and steady development of Lars’ firm electronics just kept on morphing in a sort of restless timelessness, for Moritz to juxtapose with poly-rhythmical layers that would contract and expand – a contradiction perhaps, but exactly those paradoxes that may prove fertile when there are no predetermined limits or boundaries.
The Danish composer Lars Graugaard has since the early 1990s worked with the concept of interactive music, a music where the musicians interact in realtime with a computer. For What Actually Happened, he teamed up with the Bonaparte drummer and percussionist Moritz Baumgärtner who among others plays with bands such as The Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, Saroos and the Melt Trio as well as with jazz musicians such as Ack van Rooyen and Sigi Busch. The duo presents half a dozen tracks in free improvisation that are musically located somewhere in the vicinity of driving nervous drones, African-inspired polyrhythmic textures, ambient space, Berlin Space-Kraut-Elektronik and techno-like structures. This may at times be in harmonic and melodic approaches, at other times nervous and excited or fluent and rolling. Exciting are also those noise-based moments or sections where the percussionist allegedly rebels against the electronics’ regular pulse. What Actually Happened stands out through its great enthusiasm and intense atmospheres, but also impresses with a sound that is always very diversified and manifold.
Drummer Moritz Baumgärtner comes from avant-jazz whereas Lars Graugaard is an electronic manipulator that moves between composition and improvisation. Together they move from obscure percussion narratives that are immersed in pungent techno-fusion lashings, metallurgies of new wave-jazz and sophisticated neo-tribal tapestries. There is something of This Heat to their sound, maybe a little bit monochrome but chiseled out by two genuine and very sensitive musicians. And this makes the whole difference when you are only two. (7) Federico Savini
This 2016 has been a very busy and rewarding year for the Danish composer Lars Graugaard, whom we already praised for his project Lars From Mars but especially for the CD Invisible that he made in his own name together with Keisuke Matsuno. Our acclaim also goes to this new release with the German jazz percussionist and drummer, class of 1985, Moritz Baumgärtner. The two interact with complete freedom but with a union of purpose so incisive that the album sounds perfectly cohesive and very inspired. In particular it is the atmospheric drumming that is capable of becoming intensely tribal yet always free, and how it interlocks with Graugaard’s digital decisions as he opts for electronic winds that sooner than later will grow into forceful airspaces. And there are propagated incidents that, at first subtle, quickly increase in pace and become pulsations that build in energy and spirit but without ever losing that aspect of abstraction that makes the whole undertaking so very special. More than once the CD has you imagining a sort of alliance between the engaging aloofness of Radian and the groovy yet mental rhythms of Moritz Von Oswald Trio, as rhythmic adrenaline is injected into that particular audience of sophisticated taste that sometimes gets lost in over-analysing music’s intellectual aspects.
All compositions by Lars Graugaard and Moritz Baumgärtner
Instrumentation is drum kit, percussion and laptop
Recorded May 19, 2016 at Samplehof Music Studio, Berlin, Germany
Recording Engineer Marco Jeger
Edit, mix and mastering June-August 2016 by Lars Graugaard
Cover art by Sofia Asunción Claro
MUSIK AN SICH
Here we have a very interesting album on an equally interesting concept. Lars Graugaard is a composer and flutist who has been involved in electronic music since the beginning of the 80s. He developed a music program which apparently accompanies an instrumentalist independently. In fact, the instrumentalist controls the computer through his music, and the computer generates the sounds based on this impulse using selections defined in the program.
Graugaard worked with the German-born percussionist and drummer Moritz Baumgärtner to develop the latest project with this approach. At first they planned to include some quasi-composed pieces, but since both are practiced in the improvisation, they ended up with pure improvisational music.
The six pieces on the album can be described as a kind of space-psychedelic improvisational music. Baumgärtner has an expansive drumming style with lots of boom and room, but he also makes more delicate percussion figures that lie somewhere between psychedelics and avant-garde. The electronic sounds that are produced to it – or better said, through it – are very varied. If in the first two tracks there is a very dense and spacey sound world reminiscent of pure spacerock, the electronic avant-garde percussion evolve throughout the album into electronic soundscapes of dark noise that are blended in with mysterious, sonic gestures.
The sparse percussion on Benno’s Bounce is combined with psychedelic electronic sounds to arrive at a vast electronic soundscape. Towards the end of the track, the percussion reaches an almost techno-feverish speed which the electronics complement with psychedelic rave.
Overall an interesting and, above all, successful concept which has produced a very listenable avant-garde space music.
So, what did actually happen? I’m reminded of William Burroughs’ theories around the cut-up and the construction of history, specifically a quotation from a 1974 interview:
“The past only exists in some record of it. There are no facts. We don’t know how much of history is completely fiction… There’s no record this conversation ever took place or what was said, except what is [recorded]. If the recordings were lost, or they got near a magnet and were wiped out, there would be no recordings whatever. So what are the actual facts? What was actually said here? There are no actual facts.”
So, when Lars Graugaard and Moritz Baumgärtner convened to record an album, what actually happened? Crashing cymbals and thunderous percussion in slow-mo roll through Space Twist, before uptempo jazz drumming crashes through electronic eddies on the seven-minute freeform workout that is Fourth Quolandrum. If it all sounds fairly standard in the world of avant-jazz, perhaps the arrangements in themselves are, but there’s something murky about the production: the sound has a booming density, a thickness. The sounds bounce back on one another, the bulbous bass tones bending and bow.
Some of this spatial strangeness is likely to derive from what the blurb describes as the ‘unusual setting of drums and percussion’ and the ‘musical interactions and sonic scenery of real-time electronics,’ but to what extent to we believe that this is a wholly unadulterated document of the moment, as it happened?
Perhaps it is. It’s not a question of honesty. But the very process of recording introduces an element of distance between the event and the playback. An, indeed, the playback is another experience in itself. The amplifier, the speakers. The placing of the microphones, the recording device(s), the equalization. There is no such thing as a precise master or a replica of the live event. Every stage equals a layer of distance between the happening and the review.
We may never know what actually happened, and so will have to rely on this album as a true document, until new evidence emerges.
Lars Graugaard & Moritz Baumgärtner’s What Actually Happened consists of complex and impressive up-tempo soundscapes that are ruled by percussion.
Under the heading What Actually Happened, the Dane Lars Graugaard and German Moritz Baumgärtner work with the combination of laptop and drums. Together, they develop and unceasingly improvise on rhythmic structures without ever losing their main goal, namely an original sonic make-up. The techno mutations, electronic interventions and overall developments becomes a magnificent, dynamic display that firmly rests on the musical communication, the poly-rythmical layers – at times also with metal objects – and each tracks’ overall progression.