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På skive


«The Steps That Resonate»

Swedish reeds player Martin Küchen brings a mix of intellectual rigor and emotional purity to just about everything he touches, imbuing his work with genuine meaning and moral commitment, particularly when reflecting on his family history. His new solo album «Utopia», with cover art that reproduces a photo from 1914 of his father’s grandmother with one of her daughters and their dog out for a walk in the vicinity of their hometown Hamm in Westphalen, Germany, is an intimate and painful personal journey down memory lane. But Küchen refuses to surrender to the feelings of pain and sadness that surround us but to find some inspiring thoughts  and fragile beauty in his family history that may lead him – and us, the listeners –  to a better and more compassionate future.

«Utopia» was recorded at Fylkingen, Stockholm in February 2021. Küchen layers here pre-recorded, multi-tracked tapes blended with electronic tanpura and live, soulful improvisations on the tenor and alto saxes. He sings with his saxes while employing extended breathing techniques. Küchen’s mourning tone laments the horrific effects of wars, evokes its disturbing noises, forgotten voices and formative childhood songs, warns about all wars’ «indispensable warlords» and uses silence on the brief title song. He often uses a clicking stopwatch to emphasize the transient notion of time passing. The new poetic version of «Love, flee thy house (in Breslau)», originally recorded by his Angles bands («Disappeared Behind the Sun and Parede», Clean Feed, 2017 and 2018, and «Today Is Better Than Tomorrow», Undeflow, 2019) and himself with Landæus Trio («Mind the Gap of Silence», Clean Feed, 2020), transforms this beautiful piece into an emotional, haunting Indian raga that flirts with Greek rembetika song.

Küchen meets follow European masters improvisers – Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández and Slovenian drummer Zlatko Kaučič on «The Steps That Resonate», recorded at BUMF festival Šmartno in Goriška Brda in Slovenia in September 2021. It is the first recorded document of this trio that continues to perform sporadically throughout 2022, but Fernández and Kaučič already recorded before as a duo, with Italian reeds player Marco Colonna and in the Jubileum-Quartet (with Joëlle Léandre and Evan Parker).

The atmosphere on this 39-minute free improvisation is more urgent and adventurous. But after the stormy introduction all three musicians engage with sonic searches and experiments while exhausting their personal extended techniques, often with objects, but always with deep listening, great focus on detail, eccentric conversations and fast-shifting dynamics and imaginative and playful sense of risk-taking despite the often chaotic interplay. This trio is determined to never follow charted courses and establish its own rocky and thorny sonic sceneries, with commanding conviction, wil imagination  and manic energy, all the way towards the cathartic climax. The short encore highlights this trio’s gift to sketch an instant, touching song, full of dramatic and surprising nuances, that keeps resonating long after it is gone.

Eyal Hareuveni

Martin Küchen (ts, as, snare dr, elec. tanpura, speaker, radios), Agustí Fernández (p, objects), Zlatko Kaučič (dr, objects)


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