AMN Reviews: Werner Dafeldecker & Theo Nabicht – Vessels

Werner Dafeldecker & Theo Nabicht: Vessels [absinth 021]

Vessels is the record of a summer 2010 sound exploration pairing double bassist Werner Dafeldecker with contrabass clarinetist Theo Nabicht.

Like much of Dafeldecker’s recent work, Vessels finds him exploring sound at the micro level—the level of small increments and nuances in which subtle shifts in timbre take on a kind of understated drama. Nabicht by contrast seems concerned with building more directly emotional atmospheres, albeit with means that supplement if not supplant conventional methods of playing a reed instrument. In the context of this recording, each approach complements the other.

One of the constants running throughout the recording is breath, which Nabicht presents as a thing in itself rather than as a transparent element undergirding conventional woodwind sound production. From the very opening of the recording, a rushing undercurrent of breath serves as a foundation and frame for much of the rumbling, scraping, scratching and tapping overlying it. Nabicht often bypasses the reed altogether, creating a unique and uniquely characteristic sound profile that for all its unconventionality is fundamentally expressive. Dafeldecker for his part employs what sounds like a broad range of extended double bass techniques—circular bowing on muted strings, bowing and beating with the wood of the bow or a mallet, preparing the strings—to populate a highly concrete sound world at a slight remove from Nabicht’s more immediately human presence.

Although the CD consists of nine separate tracks, the boundaries between individual pieces often blur as sound gestures present on one show up in variation on another. It is perhaps best listened to as a single suite developing over its 39 minute run time.