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På skive



The 34th edition of the Austrian festival for free music, the Music Unlimited Festival in Wels, took place in November 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions made it almost impossible to make this festive in its usual international format. But the resourceful team of the festival enlisted local masters of the art of the moment for a live stream edition of the festival. Two of these ones were pianist Elisabeth Harnik and drummer Didi Kern, known as two-thirds of the trio DEK with Ken Vandermark, but the classically-trained Harnik also collaborates regularly with other Chicagoans like Dave Rempis and Michael Zerang and French double bass master Joëlle Léandre, while the self-taught Kern plays in local alternative bands like bulbul and Fuckhead and collaborates with Mats Gustafsson.

«Steamology» offers two free improvisations of Harnik and Kern. Both improvisations are quite steamy and intense but also quite whimsical in their spirit. Harnik and Kern chase after each other in these fast-shifting and unpredictable improvisations, complementing and teasing each other and always challenging themselves with more nuances and new sounds throughout these energetic conversations, even in the quietest and most sparse moments. Their dynamics move organically from the rawest and the wildest to the thoughtful and the lyrical, where Harnik employs extended techniques and plays with the piano strings, and Kern demonstrates his dadaist rhythmic approach.

Dutch vocal artist and electronics player Jaap Blonk joins Harnik and Kern at the end of the second improvisation and for the third improvisation. Blonk immediately intensifies the dadaist dimension of these steamy, free improvisations with his wordless stream of expressive vocalizations and noisy electronics. The trio sounds as enjoying this kind of chaotic, ecstatic and surprisingly emotional interplay.

Eyal Hareuveni

Elisabeth Harnik (p), Didi Kern (dr), Jaap Blonk (v, elec)