The Wire, Dan Warburton
"Living," wrote John Cage in 1952, "takes place each instant and that instant is always changing. The wisest thing to do is to open one's ears immediately and hear a sound suddenly before one's thinking has a chance to turn it into something logical, abstract or symbolical." Many improvising musicians today pay lip-service to Cage, but very few perform music which really lets sounds be themselves. Since 1993, trombonist and composer Radu Malfatti has been exploring "the lull in the storm", crafting exquisite and truly minimal (as opposed to minimalist) music, both composed (a 1997 album on Timescraper featuring a solo trombone piece and a string quartet slipped out almost unnoticed, like the music it contained) and improvised. Back in Wire 187, Tony Herrington described "Beinhaltung", the first album by this trio released on the Italian Fringes label as "sonic microbiology", perhaps unfortunately invoking images of (e)motionless white-coated boffins peering at petri-dishes, whilst in fact the music is as alive and colourful as a butterfly floating across a sunlit footpath - and about that quiet. True, trying to listen to this while the rest of the household is zapping monsters on a Playstation or watching a Dukes of Hazzard re-run just won't do it justice. This music won't necessarily demand your attention (it's too subtle for that), but it needs your attention, and once you've entered its intimate world of creaks and crackles, you realise that there's an enormous amount of activity going on. "Dach" is German for roof, and the plastic roof of the school building in Ulrichsberg, Austria, where this performance took place in 1999 becomes the uninvited fourth member of the group: the album opens with the sound of rainfall dying away, after which the roof begins to crack and buckle in the sunshine. Phil Durrant's meticulous high violin harmonics, Thomas Lehn's exquisitely-placed analogue synth reverberations (accompanied by occasional gasps.. of delight?) and Malfatti's extraordinary explorations of the timbre of breathing combine with the ambient sounds of the performance space (and the traffic beyond it) to produce truly engrossing cinema for the ear, as vivid as Chris Watson's recordings of eviscerated zebra carcasses, as chillingly authentic as AMM's Crypt - and as natural as rain falling on a roof.
All Music Guide, Brian Olewnick
The very first things one hears on this live recording are the creaks and pops issuing from the transparent roof of the structure within which the concert is being held as it weathers a rainstorm ("dach" translates to "roof"). The ambience is entirely convincing, a credit to Earl Howard's mastering, and the listener finds himself appreciating a palpable sense of space and air, so much so that it is difficult to tell exactly when the performance proper begins. Given trombonist Radu Malfatti's preoccupations of the previous several years, this is very appropriate for the trio he steers practices free improvisation of the quietest kind. Indeed, it often seems as though they are almost willing their music to be subsumed by the environment, providing only the slightest tinges of difference. Contrary, crucially, to what has become generally known as ambient music, there is no fluff, no gauze, no preconceived notions of "prettiness" or serenity. Though quiet, the sounds are agitated, inquisitive, surprising and purposeful. Durrant and Malfatti, who have long careers working with diverse groups, both traditional and avant-garde, rarely create sounds normally associated with their respective instruments. Instead, they generate rubbings, taps, breaths and more that, pillowed among Lehn's more readily recognizable synthesizer, ingratiate themselves into the room while remaining in conversation with each other. The effect is one of lying in a beautiful, alien space alive with fascinating sound. dach is one of the finest recorded examples of what might be termed the post-AMM school of improvisation and fans of that highly esteemed ensemble will find much to enjoy here. Challenging music, highly recommended.
Incursion Music Review, Richard di Santo
Phil Durrant (violin), Thomas Lehn (analogue synth) and Radu Malfatti (trombone) join forces for a second time on Dach, a live recording from the 1999 Kaleidophon festival in Ulrichsberg, Austria. Dach, an "environmental improv record", is one continuous performance, divided into 4 tracks solely for the listener's convenience. There is also a fourth collaborator on this disc, and, although it's difficult to give an inanimate structure composition credits, the white plastic roof over the performance space has an active presence throughout this piece (and hence its title: "Dach" is German for roof). The recording opens with sounds of a gentle rainfall on the roof, setting the stage for the delicate sounds and pregnant pauses to follow. The roof has more to say than just being a receptacle for the falling rain; as the sun emerges, warming the roof's metal supports, creaking and cracking sounds begin to emanate from above, creating a new and significant sound source in the performance. Each of the performers function with like-minded restraint, respecting the silences between sounds, presenting shuffles, tones, wheezes, or pluckings here and there in a loose arrangement that is both simple and complex. Dach inspires the listener's keen and careful attention, and as time goes by my perception becomes ever more sensitive to new sounds and developments in the piece. An incredible achievement.