Thanos Chrysakis, Chris Cundy, Peer Schlechta, Ove Volquartz
Duration 62.02 | Released September 2023
Thanos Chrysakis Chamber Organ / Voice
Chris Cundy Bass Clarinet / Contra Bass Clarinet / Sopranino Ocarina
Peer Schlechta Organ
Ove Volquartz Bass Clarinet / Contra Alto Clarinet / Contra Bass Clarinet
Recorded at Neustädter Kirche —
by Franz Wagner on the 13th of September 2022.
About the Artists
Thanos Chrysakis is a Greek composer, musician, producer and sound-artist. He is best known for his work in electronic and contemporary music, free improvisation, and electro-acoustic music.
With several albums to his name his work has appeared in festivals and events in numerous countries, including CYNETart Festival, Festspielhaus Hellerau - Dresden, Artus Contemporary Arts Studio – Budapest, CRUCE Gallery – Madrid, Fylkingen – Stockholm, Relative (Cross) Hearings festival – Budapest, Festival Futura – Crest - Drôme, FACT Centre – Liverpool, Association Ryoanji – Ahun - Creuse, The Center for Advanced Musical Studies at Chosen Vale — Hanover - New Hampshire, Areté Gallery — Brooklyn - New York, UC San Diego – California - San Diego, Berner Münster – Bern, Fabbrica del Vapore – Milan, Grünewaldsalen – Svensk Musikvår — Stockholm, Splendor – Amsterdam, Logos Foundation – Ghent, Palacio de Bellas Artes – Mexico City, Műcsarnok Kunsthalle – Budapest, Spektrum – Berlin, Susikirtimai X – Vilnius, Festival del Bosque GERMINAL – Mexico City, ДОМ – Moscow, Oosterkerk – Amsterdam, KLANG ! – Montpellier, Nádor Terem – Budapest, Utzon Centre – Aalborg, Center for New Music – San Francisco, Västerås Konstmuseum – Västerås, Störung festival – Barcelona, BMIC Cutting Edge concert series at The Warehouse – London.
His music was among the selected works at the International Competition de Musique et d'Art Sonore Electroacoustiques de Bourges 2005, in the category oeuvre d'art sonore électroacoustique, while received an honorary mention in 2006 at the 7th International Electroacoustic Competition Musica Viva in Lisbon (the jury was constituted by Morton Subotnick (USA), François Bayle (France), and Miguel Azguime (Portugal).
He operates the Aural Terrains record label since 2007 where he has released part of his work until now, alongside releases by Kim Cascone, Franscisco López, Tomas Phillips, Dan Warburton, Szilárd Mezei, Michael Edwards, Wade Matthews, Dganit Elyakim, Edith Alonso, Luis Tabuenca, Jeff Gburek, Philippe Petit, Steve Noble, Milo Fine and David Ryan among others.
He has written music for musicians of the Hyperion Ensemble, the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet, the Hermes Ensemble, the Nemø Ensemble, the Konus Saxophone Quartett, and the Shadanga Duo among others. Close collaborations with Tim Hodgkinson, Vincent Royer, Chris Cundy, Yoni Silver, Lori Freedman, Jason Alder, Julie Kjaer, Henriette Jensen, William Lang, Wilfrido Terrazas, Philippe Brunet, Wade Matthews, Ernesto Rodrigues, Ove Volquartz to name but a few.
“swirling around the songs was bass clarinet player Chris Cundy, like a birdsong interrupting an argument” - Los Angeles Times
Playing bass clarinet and rarified woodwind instruments Chris Cundy is a composer and performer with a practice rooted in experimental and improvised settings. His work also crosses over into popular music and he has worked with a variety of songwriters and groups including Timber Timbre, Cold Specks (aka Ladan Hussein), Thor & Friends, Baby Dee & Little Annie, and Guillemots.
Growing up in the Medway towns Chris became friends with artist and punk musician Billy Childish who introduced him to the exploits of homemade music-making at an early age. This led to a lasting DIY attitude and by the time he was 12 Chris had already started out as a street performer and busker. After hearing Eric Dolphy's music he took up the bass clarinet. He remains self-taught.
Also a visual artist, Chris studied painting at Cheltenham where he discovered a synergy between drawing practices and improvised music. This led to self-developed playing techniques using multi-phonics, circular breathing, exploring micro tonality and generally speaking a more tactile approach to the instrument. Chris also performs contemporary classical music and has premiered works by Greek composer Thanos Chrysakis. He performs as a soloist and as a member of The Set Ensemble.
He is also involved with theatre music, and recently contributed to an original soundtrack for Florian Zeller's stage play The Mother starring Gina McKee. Chris has performed at Shakespeare's Globe and toured with circus companies NoFit State, and Imagineer.
One off sessions have seen Chris performing alongside Moby, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Lol Coxhill, Vieux Farka Touré, Fatoumata Diawara, Alexander Hawkins, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Lisa Hannigan.
He has released three solo albums, Gustav Lost in 2016 (FMR Records), The Disruptive Forest in 2017 (Confront), and the mini-album Crude Attempt in 2020 (Pressing Records). A further album of acoustic bass clarinet compositions is expected in 2021 titled Of All The Common Flowers.
Peer Schlechta is an organ and bell expert and regularly plays concerts as performer and improviser.
He studied organ with Hans-Ola Ericsson, Bernhard Haas and Jean Guillou and has performed on historic instruments in several provinces thoughout Europe.
Further studies in musicology and German philology completed his education.
He works for the Protestant Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck. His research is focused on the history and instruments of the organ builders Kohlen-Heeren-Kuhlmann-Euler from Gottsbüren and Hofgeismar. He is also interested in the development of keyboard instruments especially in the field of organ construction.
Since 2006, Peer Schlechta has been a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association for Organ Documentation (IAOD) while since 2013 serves as its Chairman.
Musician, improviser and composer in the fields of jazz and improvised music since the 70’s. He originates from the German free jazz scene but developed and involved into the more open field of improvised music. The treatment of musical timbre and of advanced techniques on low and very low clarinets, have become the distinguishing features of his playing. He has worked with (free) jazz and improvising musicians like Cecil Taylor, Roscoe Mitchell, Peter Kowald, Gunter Hampel, Barre Phillips, Sabu Toyozumi, Perry Robinson, Peeter Uuskyla, Gianni Mimmo, Gianni Lenoci. On the other hand he works with pipe organ player Peer Schlechta and contemporary composers like Daniel Ott. In addition he has worked through out the years in collaborative projects with dancers like Tadashi Endo, painters, poets and film makers. Volquartz has played at many festivals like Moers, Leipzig, Leverkusen among many others. In concert tours he went as far as to Africa where he worked with drummer Kojo Samuels in Liberia. He has recorded with Annexus Quam, Gunter Hampel, TAG Trio, Second Exit, Reciprocal Uncles, Yoko Miura and Cecil Taylor among others. As a musicologist he has worked about flow experiences in improvisation.
Massimo Ricci — The Squid's Ear — 22.11.2023
Recorded in 2022 at the Neustädter Kirche in Hofgeismar, Archangel blends the potent voices of two organs, handled by Thanos Chrysakis and Peer Schlechta, with diverse clarinets — principally bass — played by Chris Cundy and Ove Volquartz. All of the musicians have extensive resumes filled with achievements and teamwork; with regard to pipe organs, Schlechta in particular is a proven historian. These five extended tracks, however, consistently prioritize collective sonority over individuality. Regardless of whether one examines their innate compositeness via headphones, or experiences the resonant wholeness diffusing from the speakers, an entirely selfless entity always arises.
The artists exhibit a predisposition for abstract timbral exploration evidently influenced by the German church's natural reverberation. Most of the interaction occurs in the low-to-medium range, yet there are also recurrent excursions into the organ's higher registers, complemented by Cundy's introduction of a loquacious sopranino ocarina in "Part V". Basically, the dynamics are divided between the droning pulse of the organs, whose mingled pitches occasionally come through as the dominant force, and the reedists' alternating held tones, brief outbursts, a speck of meditative melody, and upper partial spicing inside relatively static milieus. In sections such as "Part II-III" the organists are the ones who stir up the waves, creating less-than-peaceful environments typified by piercing dissonance.
It is common knowledge that some albums, since they defy easy categorization, might leave a reviewer feeling hopeless as they make it hard to determine the exact purpose of their content. Across several listening sessions, this writer's cohabitation with the music did create a few "hook points" for memory in the midst of a somewhat unsettling transcendence. But before declaring that the record's hidden connotations were authentically understood, there is still a long way to go. That said, there's no disputing the curiosity growing along with our confidence with the sound material. Though the secrets it holds are progressively revealed with every spin, the underlying potential of Archangel remains shrouded in mystery. Which, naturally, heightens the fascination all around.
Nick Ostrum — Free Jazz Blog — 13.01.24
Five years after their 2018 Music for two Organs and Two Bass Clarinets , the low-end quartet of Thanos Chrysakis (chamber organ, voice), Chris Cundy (bass clarinet, contra-bass clarinet, sopranino ocarina), Peer Schlechta (organ) and Ove Volquartz (bass clarinet, contra-alto clarinet, contra-bass clarinet) went back to the Neustädter Kirche for a session that would produce Archangel.
It begins with high organ pitches and plodding bass tones. Breathy reeds come in, as does a blast of organ chords. What Archangel provides is what Chrysakis achieves so consistently and expertly: a complex layering of tones that drone, fluctuate, collide, entwine and, most importantly, shape each other. A fitting metaphor may be a big hollow pipe, wherein sounds bounce and rebound but also converge into a greater, richer and more whole-sounding aggregate. The clarinets billow through the alternately piercing circuitry sounds and the intermittent elongated tones. Over time, the clarinets get more aggressive (or probing) and start pushing their way to the front as the organ holds back, erecting pillar after pillar of sound. As the musicians move into Parts II-III, the organs shift to the fore again splitting the ground between heavy tones and the crackling high notes, which, 16-and-a-half minutes in, break into one of several moments of redirection and clarity. Here, one clarinet soars as the other flirts with the organ drone. And the dance continues Clarinets flutter in and out of perception, sometimes clucking and other times ascending and descending scales. I cannot speak to individuals, but one organ is consistent in its endless hum, sometimes broken by keyboard strikes. The other – the piercing one - wanders in and out of winding melodies, or dramatic climbs. Indeed, Part III ends in something of a march or a tension-ridden, punctuated pulse that most often comes from a large string section.
Part IV reverses the roles at first, with elongated upper register buzz and the clarinets deep in scalar dialog. This section, however, is more spacious, and maybe less cavernous (despite the sonorous confines of the church in which it is performed). The Cundy and Volquartz intrude a little further into warmer, lyrical terrain at points, and the overall effect is somewhat more personal – and less intimidating – than the early movements. I think I even hear chants or groans at points, which may be Chrysakis or might be resonant illusions. That, of course, adds to the mystery that Chrysakis as composer generates so effectively in many of his works. Part V leans back into whistles (this must be where Cundy picks up the sopranino ocarina), surprisingly nimble bass clarinet clusters, some jaunty organ melodies (that sound like a distant, hazy and irregular organ grinder) and heavy chords. This is where things get most intense.
Then again, the dynamics of tension might not be the proper lens through which to view this. Rather, Archangel is a deceptive monolith. One can listen casually and hear, really, the same dynamic range and similar textiles, not quite homogenous or scripted but not terribly wild either. The real effect, however, comes in the dissimilarities and the fine features that shatter any inclination toward homogeny. Of course, one must listen to the space of the church, as well, which lends gravity, echo and reverberance. Especially those who are riding the contemporary organ music wave (on wandelweiser, Another Timbre, Zorn’s Hermetic Organ project), I recommend picking this one up. Archangel has a fuller sound than those tend to. Nevertheless, it approaches the instrument, and a variety of deep clarinets, with a similar drive to push the instrument tonally and physically out of the baroque and into the modern world. And, for those familiar with Music for Two Organs, Archangel flows along similar lines, but is more cohesive. The former seems an experiment; the latter, an expression of a shared vision.
Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg — Orynx — 03.10.2023
Une belle et intrigante suite à leur album précédent « Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets », Archangel réunit le travail conjoint des clarinettistes Chris Cundy (Bass & Contra Bass Clarinet, Soprano Ocarina) et Ove Volquartz (Bass, Contra Alto et Contra Bass Clarinets) Thanos Chrysakis (Chamber Organ / Voix) et Peer Schlechta(Church Organ). Mentionnons que Peer Schlechta est un expert en orgues qui a joué sur de nombreux instruments historiques et est Président de l’Association Internationale pour la Documentation de l’Orgue. Comme le précédent, cet enregistrement a été réalisé dans la Neustädter Kirche à Hofgeismar. Le label Aural Terrains de Thanos Chrysakis documente des ensembles instrumentaux ( clarinettes, trombones, électroniques , instr. À vent, etc…) exécutant des œuvres de multiples compositeurs contemporains, certains parmi les plus réputés, ou improvisant librement, ce qui est le cas d’Archangel. Au fil des années son excellent catalogue est devenu impressionnant et sa démarche passionnante. À noter, Cundy et Volquartz ont aussi souvent collaboré ensemble et Peer Schlechta travaille régulièrement avec ce dernier.
La combinatoire sonore des clarinettes basses et des deux orgues (chamber organ : orgue positif en français car déposé à même le sol) et la résonance particulière de l’église nous livrent une musique fantomatique et même, fantasmagorique. La richesse des timbres et des registres de deux orgues se répandent dans l’espace sonore suspendant ses bourdons, drones, grondements et souffleries nasillardes entre les parois réverbérantes de l’église et son sol dallé. Ces sonorités s’interpénètrent, roulent, vibrent, tanguent, aiguillonnées par les souffles graveleux, mordants ou ombrageux des clarinettes graves. Se développe une musique de mystère, distante et intensément acoustique, faite de vents, d’air et de vibrations des multiples tuyaux , orgues et clarinettes ou mêlés ou en contraste. Il semble que l’orgue « de chambre » ou les tuyaux du grand orgue fait/font osciller des drones tapissant d’une seule couche aérienne vibrante l’espace auditif. (2. Part II – III). Ailleurs, les clarinettistes initient les échanges en articulant des gammes dans l’ultra-grave de la clarinette contrebasse (Cundy) et dans le registre moyen de la contra-alto (Volquarz) (Part IV). Cette manière de dialogue induit les deux organistes à opérer en demi-teinte associant des timbres ténus oscillant dans la résonance des graves. L’intervention à l’ocarina de Cundy est providentielle et apporte une touche « chant d’oiseau » qui se marie superbement bien avec les jeux de l’orgue dans une manière plus intimiste et avec un brin de folie. La musique, si elle est improvisée collectivement, semble accoucher d’une œuvre préconçue avec un matériau prédéfini et de la suite dans les idées. Elle se meut avec lenteur, patience tendant vers un but ultime qui se dévoile peu à peu. Voilà une musique bien originale.
A beautiful and intriguing follow-up to their previous album, "Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets", Archangel combines the collective work of clarinetists Chris Cundy, (Bass & Contrabass Clarinets, Soprano Ocarina) and Ove Volquartz (Bass, Contra-Alto and Contrabass Clarinets), Thanos Chrysakis (Chamber Organ / Voice) and Peer Schlechta (Pipe Organ). We should mention that Peer Schlechta is an organ expert who has performed on numerous historical instruments and is president of the International Association for the Documentation of the Organ. Like their earlier work, this recording was carried out at Neustädter church in Hofgeismar. Thanos Chrysakis's Aural Terrains label documents instrumental ensembles (clarinets, trombones, electronics, wind instruments, etc.) performing the work of multiple contemporary composers — including some of the most highly regarded — or improvising freely, as is the case with Archangel. Over the years, its excellent catalogue has become impressive and its progress is thrilling.
The combined sounds of bass clarinets and two organs (chamber and pipe organs) amidst the church's particular resonance make for a ghostly and even phantasmagorical music. The wealth of timbres and registers of the two organs expand into the sound space, dangling their pedal tones, drones, groans and nasal hisses within the church's resonant walls. These sonorities interpenetrate, roll, vibrate and sway, spurred on by the gravelly, biting and shadowy blowing of the deep clarinets. The result is a mysterious, distant and intensely acoustic music where wind, air and the vibrations of multiple tubes combine and intermingle. The "chamber organ", and the grand organ's pipes, seem to line the listening space with a single coat of droning air (2. Part II - III). Elsewhere, the clarinetists launch the exchanges with scales running through the lowest register of the contrabass clarinet (Cundy) and the mid register of the contra-alto (Volquartz). This sort of work draws the two organists into a subdued dialogue of prolonged timbres that oscillate in the resonance of the deepest registers. The intervention of Cundy's ocarina is providential, contributing a touch of "birdsong" that combines superbly with the organ in a more intimate way, with just the right amount of madness. If this music is collectively improvised, it seems to give birth to a preconceived work with predefined materials well in keeping with the ideas. It changes slowly, with a patience tending towards a final destination unveiled little by little. Here, we have truly original music.
Todd McComb — Jazz Thoughts — 21.Nov.2023
Continuing a sort of textural nexus explored in this space of late, as well as reprising an ensemble from an already noted album, in this case moving to the more singular title Archangel — itself recorded in September 2022 — from the more generic (but detailed...) Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets (as reviewed here in May 2018), Thanos Chrysakis returns alongside historical organist Peer Schlechta & their respective colleagues on low-range clarinets, Chris Cundy & Ove Volquartz. This is the first post-pandemic, improvised album from Chrysakis (here credited on chamber organ & voice — the latter subtly on only one track...) & his Aural Terrains label then, e.g. after most recently Five Shards (recorded in 2019 & reviewed here in August 2021, as a "garden of horns cultivated by Chrysakis," i.e. with more timbral variety — & likewise more dynamic instability — than his usual deep reed focus lately...), but also after Music for Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinets & Electronics (also recorded in 2017, i.e. not long after Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets...). And while Archangel shows considerable development from the quartet's first album, becoming both more intricate & more immersive, it does retain a jazzier quality at times, particularly from the reeds, which are after all played by different musicians from those on Music for Baritone... — the latter with its close (textural) emphasis on reed grains, yielding a sort of overall (non-jazzy) smoothness.... It also turns out that Schlechta & Volquartz had only recently released another quartet album together, Cadenza del Crepusculo (recorded in November 2021, so prior to Archangel...) with John Hughes (bass — & actually a bassist on the enigmatic Pail Bug, discussed here at length in March 2012...) & Gianni Mimmo (soprano sax). Of course, the latter had only just appeared in this space with Due Mutabili (reviewed back in September), also released on his Amirani Records. One of the more striking aspects of Archangel, relative to the quartet's first album, is then its pairing of high pitches with the big organ bass (forging an immersive atmosphere overall, against which the clarinets exchange calls & sometimes jazzy lines between...), but Cadenza del Crepusculo (like the earlier quartet with Schlechta...) emphasizes more of the bass in general, i.e. from the pedals up, a growling flow, often seeming low & anticipatory.... I also saw the result described as "medieval" elsewhere, so need to add that Schlechta's specialty is early Baroque organs, i.e. historically tuned in versions of mean-tone yielding to well-temperaments, so very different from Pythagorean tuning with its ringing perfect fifths. (Mean-tone is almost exactly the opposite, whereas 12tet is very close to 3:2 fifths again....) And I can't really pick out the precise tuning on Archangel, but there appears to be a historical temperament at work, which actually contributes to the feeling of "immersion" involved (as buoyed by the chamber organ, presumably a synthesizer with variable tunings, "framing" the acoustic space with high pitches...). So besides the more idiomatic expression from the reed players, that's a key difference from Music for Baritone..., the latter invoking (relatively speaking) a sort of smoothness that relies (apparently) on 12tet. (Among favorites here, Sitsa may be the most similar in terms of combining organ to frame space, there with an eerie sheering quality, plenty of suspension, but also yielding a "smooth" feel overall....) So that aspect suggests a comparison with Werckmeister Musik (recorded in 2019) & its specific Baroque tuning (& synth sometimes sounding like organ...), there also yielding an immersive sense of flowing waves.... (The "bent" feel of the unequal temperament thus suggests a kind of envelopment — i.e. forges a territory via its internal contradiction.) Like Sitsa though, Werckmeister Musik suggests a rather more "industrial" context, i.e. versus the clear (evocation of a) church organ on Archangel. The latter aspect can be found interrogated by e.g. Tuning Out as well, but with the historical tuning further problematized (i.e. used differently from intended...) & rendered more often into pointillistic interactions. So that differs from the typically flowing (albeit with some clashes & stoppages...) & immersive quality of Archangel, itself seeming to take up various textural currents, especially (if indirectly...) from Anthony Braxton & DCWM, specifically here with the organ pair (versus e.g. vibraphone, or vibraphone plus accordion, pace the previous entry...) forging a similar sort of shimmering-glittering background tapestry, sometimes with clarinets blending more into the texture then, but more often in relief or recitative, i.e. projecting a sort of rhetorical-jazzy horn interaction as framed by various held tones, low & high. And Braxton does project a jazziness from his horns often enough as well, so that aspect is similar — even as I prefer the more "integrated" passages on Archangel: The big opening organ entry is dramatic, soon into senses of falling (as tuning is subtly implicated...), clarinets cautious at first, eventually coming more to the fore.... (And for the final track, Cundy turns to ocarina instead, adding another interrogation of the highs, yielding some differing textures, provocative again, but still relatively preliminary....) There's thus almost a sense that church music is yielding to jazz. (And of course this sort of fusion was already accomplished differently in the 20th century via gospel, i.e. with the organ-guitar trio....) But Archangel is also long (more than an hour... & available as well from Cundy's Bandcamp), and while it's certainly more sophisticated than the interaction on Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets (from five & a half years prior... itself still with e.g. "jazzy chords" from chamber organ...), there're still plenty of passages that seem to be routine continuations or more tentative ongoing explorations.... So will the quartet be ready for more in another five years? Or maybe this basic combination will be coming back sooner? There's enough to Archangel that one can really hear the potential (particularly given e.g. the spatial possibilities raised).
Maciej Lewenstein — 28.10.23