The first incarnation of the XPACT quartet happened almost four decades ago in Berlin when three German improvisers from the second generation of free-improvisers – reeds player Wolfgang Fuchs, guitarist Erhard Hirt and double bass player Hans Schneider met British drummer and experimentalist Paul Lytton. This short-lived quartet released only one album, «Frogman’s View» (Uhlklang, 1984), but all four musicians were at that time the core of a more famous band, King Übü Örchestrü.
34 years later, and after Fuchs sadly died in 2016, Hirt, Schneider and Lytton decided to reincarnate XPACT with tenor sax player Stefan Keune, representing the third generation of German free-improvisers, and a close collaborator of Schneider who played with Lytton in Keune’s trio («Loft», Hybrid 3, 1992). XPACT II recorded its debut album at King Georg in Köln in September 2020. Hirt adds electronics to his guitar, Schneider designed the cover art as he did for the first album of XPACT, and Lytton does what he does best, drumming but in the most unconventional manner and on his own set of devices.
John Corbett, who wrote the liner notes, describes this album as a meeting of old comrades «who fall together like dear friends around a table, estranged for forgotten reasons, reunited to see if there’s spark left». There are plenty of sparks here. «XPACT II» features strong-minded but versatile improvisers, and Keune fits perfectly into the adventurous legacy of XPACT . The four pieces are urgent but radiate a fragile atmosphere, bursting with restless ideas but refuse to adopt any of these ideas. Lytton injects subversive sound and adds a quirky sense of humor and sharp irony with his set of percussive, tabletop objects. The addition of raw electronics by Hirt and Lytton colors these improvised pieces with alien veins. The music flows fast from one event to the other but in a sudden, unpredictable and yet organic manner. And as Corbett concluded: «against all odds, all members having grown and changed over the years, XPACT is somehow still XPACT».
Stefan Keune (ts), Erhard Hirt (g, elec), Hans Schneider (b), Paul Lytton (Trobriander laptop, miscellaneous tabletop obj)