Eternal City documents a meeting between prolific and experimental free improvisers, sound artists and long-time collaborators – American, Zürich-based electronics player Jason Kahn (who also did the mixing and mastering and is also a guitarist, vocalist and percussionist, and writer and visual artist) and German, Los Angeles-based sax player Ulrich Krieger (who recorded the album and is also a composer of chamber music and electronic music, and an associate professor for the composition faculty at the California Institute of the Arts). The album was recorded in Los Angeles in May 2022, and released in a limited edition of 200 discs with hand-painted covers, made by Kahn, on thick gray cardboard plus a download option.
Khan and Krieger recorded before Timelines Los Angeles (Creative Sources, 2009, with electronic player-guitarist Mark Trayle and pianist Olivia Block). Eternal City offers three untitled and extended improvisations that melt Krieger’s amplified tenor sax, contrabass clarinet and krummhorn (a double-reed wind instrument from the 15th century), with his extended breathing techniques that produce refined acoustic, quasi-electronic sounds that often change the instrument identity and structure and get down to the ‘grains of the sounds’, into Kahn’s imaginative electronics sonic palette. These improvisations are focused on sculpting raw and rough soundscapes that search for common yet quite unsettling sonic ground, often towards abstract noise landscapes, but mostly tense and alien ones.
Aphotic I – Hadal relates to Krieger’s fascination with the ‘alienness’ of oceanic depths. He thinks that these landscapes are the closest to an alien environment and where it may be possible to find alien life on planet Earth. The aphotic zones (from Greek: lightless) relate to the oceanic depths roughly between 1,000 – 11,000 meters, therefore no light reaches down into the endless darkness of the three deep-sea aphotic, ‘midnight’ water layers. Hadal (6,000 – 11,000 m) is the realm of huge, incredible flat abyssal plains and large deep-sea trenches, where the fauna of the deep sea is for the most part still unexplored. The deeper we go , the pressure gets stronger, the water gets colder, and less animal life can be found.
Krieger, as a recreational scuba diver, has never been to such depths but can imagine the different acoustic that irritates our senses and creates a new, unique experience. Sound in salt water is 4 times faster than in air, resulting in a loss of directional hearing—sounds seem to come from everywhere, meaning we cannot orientate by sound anymore. Furthermore, there is the filter effect of water, making the underwater soundscape filtered, darker and quieter. The three extended «Hadal» pieces offer three, 20-minute sonic images of the Hadal’s dark and lonesome depths – acoustic (with the highly resonating bass clarinet of Krieger, with the accordion of Ben Richter and the atmospheric electric guitar of Alkis Nicolaides, and its ever spreading resonances), delay (with much deeper, rippling resonant sounds) and electronic (as if all otherworldly sounds transmitted from deep, infinite space where no sound is lost). These pieces resonate and spread slowly in the lonesome waters with enigmatic, hypnotic drones, sending us a message about this delicate and fragile ecosystem.
Jason Kahn (electronics), Ulrich Krieger (tenor saxophone, contrabass clarinet, krummhorn, bass clarinet, electronics), Ben Richter (accordion), Alkis Nicolaides (electric guitar)