Japanese guitarist Kazuhisha Uchihashi, who was one of the c0-curators of the Unlimited Music Festival in Wels, Austrian, in 2019, initiated the performance of the trio of distinct, master improvisers – Tuvan vocal artist Sainkho Namtchylak (who also painted the cover art, «winter day is like a running dog across the street»), American reeds player Ned Rothenberg and Viennese turntables wizard die13 (aka Dieter Kovačič, who is also a hacker, filmmaker and conscientious copyright objector). The Vienna-based Namtchylak, known for her Tuvan throat singing, Khöömei, has collaborated with Peter Kowald, Evan Parker and began working with Rothenberg about 25 years ago, first in a duo format («Amulet», Leo, 1996) and more recently with her SainkhoKosmos («6.8.1»7, OtoRoku, 2017, and «Echoes of the Ancestors», 2019). She performed before with dieb13 but «Antiphonen» documents the first-ever performance of this trio.
Fortunately, I experienced this performance live, and from very close to the stage, and more than a year later I enjoy it even more. During the first improvisation, Namtchylak covered her shaved head with a red balaclava, therefore the first extended piece is ironically titled “A Shave and a Haircut”. Without this eccentric distraction, there is more time to enjoy her infinite palette of vocal and her unique way of telling strange and even weirder, cryptic and free-associative stories without articulating even one comprehensible word, but with great pathos and a compelling sense of drama. Rothenberg and dieb13 orchestrated and framed her cryptic, ecstatic stories wisely. Rothenberg with clever, sharp rhythmic ideas, and often with an aroma of fragile, meditative lyricism, while dieb13 added more ironic yet subtle and insightful orchestral layers. Namtchylak sounds on this piece as soaring high on her own mysterious space pathways, while Rothenberg and dieb13 act as the pillars of her intergalactic arkestra. This piece ends with an intense, emotional coda, with Rothenberg sketching a playful melody, echoed by Namtchylak’s vocals and embraced by dieb13’s roaring, atmospheric sounds.
The second, short improvisation «Two Bits» suggests a more democratic, conversational improvisation between Namtchylak, Rothenberg and dieb13. Each vocal or reed gesture is immediately transformed by dieb13 into surprising, highly eccentric and rich sonic collages that shed some sobering light on Namtchylak’s secretive stories.
Sainkho Namtchylak (v), Ned Rothernberg (cl, as, shakuhachi), dieb13 (turntables, klopfer)