MITO Festival – Torino, Italy

September 18, 2013

September 18, 2013

The Kilowatt Hour, a trio formed by Stephan Mathieu, Christian Fennesz and David Sylvian started at the Punkt Festival 2013 with a 72 minute performance  with poems by- and narated by the American poet Franz Wright. A small tour followed.

Christian Fennesz and David Sylvian first collaborated on albums such as ‘Blemish’, ‘Venice’, and ‘Manafon’, and following the recent collaboration between Stephan Mathieu and Sylvian on ‘Wandermüde’, comes a new project, The Kilowatt Hour, a trio formed by Mathieu, Sylvian and Fennesz.

Whilst currently a vehicle for touring improvised instrumental works there are no limitations set on where this initial exploration might lead. This debut series of concerts will reveal a work in progress, a continued exploration of the chemistry shared between these very unique artists.

Kilowatt Hour by Chris BiggThe Kilowatt Hour, a new collaborative trio featuring Stephan Mathieu, David Sylvian and Christian Fennesz, has just announced a set of live dates in Europe this fall. The instrumental trio will develop material this summer to debut at the Punkt Festival in Kristiansand, Norway on September 7, followed by a series of dates in Italy.

Says Sylvian, “I feel very fortunate to be in the company of two musicians whom I’ve great respect for and whose generosity and companionship have enriched my personal and working life. We’re going to undertake a brief excursion together to see where it might lead. There’s no complacency, no shortcuts being taken. We’re looking to create something unique and exciting for ourselves and a fresh experience for those that attend the performances.”

The January release of Mathieu and Sylvian’s Wandermüde marked the first time these musicians came together, albeit from a distance: Mathieu built the album with material from Sylvian’s 2003 masterpiece Blemish, remixing and reinterpreting it using his practice of live processing. Fennesz makes a cameo via a guitar solo that appears on the final track, “Deceleration.” Like a heart caught in mid-beat, this ambient work has a stillness that never becomes stale, and a warmth that never embraces you. It indicates the sensibilities of all three men, but they’re quick to point out that this is just one guidepost to where the trio will lead: they will be meeting in Vienna this July to work on material, and all ideas are on the table.

“A basic guide for our performance is the idea of ‘eventlessness,’” says Mathieu. “Right now we aim at creating a composition which is fixed to a certain degree but leaves enough space to shape in a live situation. So, while we will present a piece, this will vary slightly from show to show.”

“I’d like to find material through improvisation,” says Fennesz. “It definitely is a risky project but that makes it exciting. It’s a bit like jumping into cold water.”

The Kilowatt Hour is the first collaboration between Fennesz and Mathieu, who have known each other since the ‘90s. The Austrian guitarist and German electroacoustic musician and producer both work in the broad fields of electronic and improvised music. Fennesz, best known for shimmering pop albums including Endless Summer, has also performed in exquisite free improv sessions with fellow luminaries like Keith Rowe and Toshimaru Nakamura. Stephan Mathieu, who began his career as a drummer, is a sound artist working loosely in two veins: the live processing of digital sources, and projects built on acoustic sources such as historical instruments and mechanical gramophones. His albums include the acclaimed 2008 release Radioland, and his upcoming The Falling Rocket.

David Sylvian has worked with both men over the last decade, and the trio will also mark a return to the ambient experiments that he has pursued on and off since the ‘80s, notably on Plight and Premonition and Flux and Mutability, his two albums with Can’s Holger Czukay. “The pieces I created with Holger were works that evolved very naturally without any recourse to the standard notion of ‘performance’ per se. What was captured was the tentative, the unsure footing, the meandering evolution of an idea before it became solidified in the mind, subject to the process of self-editing, practice and performance in the sense of something learned by rote and repeated with emotional emphasis. We obliterated the performative element wherever it threatened to creep into the improvisations. If I carry anything over from past projects maybe it’d be this practice.”

For Sylvian, the project entails taking risks: he will forego his most familiar instrument – his voice – and he will be returning to the stage for the first time since his 2007 tour. “What will actually transpire once we’re in a room together might be grounded in these early developments or something other might result from them and/or the chemistry between us,” says Sylvian. “Both Stephan and Christian have systems in place that they’re very familiar with. In this respect I’m something of an outsider as I’ve avoided working with specific set-ups most of my life. Each new project involves a learning curve, a process of starting over. I’m curious as to what my response will be to Christian and Stephan’s intimacy and fluency with their set-ups. If I’m honest I’d be disappointed if I failed to discover a new language with which to work.”

With no rules to restrict them and no plan beyond these concerts, the Kilowatt Hour venture out with nothing but their intuition and taste to guide them. The performances will be an adventure for audience and artists alike.

Review Impatto Sonoro (24 September 2013)

The Kilowatt Hour, il trio di Sylvian viaggia fuori giri?

A poche settimane dalle scimitarre techno del Traffic Festival e con le insegne del Club to Club a scintillare dietro l’angolo, le OGR si confermano location torinese in ascesa rapidissima, scatola nera sede di chirurgiche operazioni elettroniche. Stavolta tocca a MITO – Settembre musica, una delle kermesse di punta all’ombra della Mole, farsi incarnazione delle mutazioni digitali del nostro tempo, schierando on stage un inglese, un austriaco e un inglese. Sembra una barzelletta, invece è un tris di teste di serie della sperimentazione analogica: l’astronauta ambient dalla pennellata espressionista Stephan Mathieu, il puntinista glitch Christian Fennensz e sua Maestà David Sylvian, sotto il moniker inedito di “The Kilowatt Hour”.
Il primo si porta dietro l’usuale gomitolo di droni rarefatti, il secondo alza il tiro dopo la collaborazione con un’altra coppia di smanettoni escapologi nel progetto Fenn’o’berg, il Re Mida dei Japan incasella da anni featuring illustri con outsiders della melodia (da Fripp a Ribot, passando anche per il poeta del pianoforte Sakamoto) e per l’occasione rinuncia coraggiosamente all’elemento stilistico che lo ha sempre contraddistinto: la voce.
Avvolta dalla pressocchè totale oscurità dalle sterminata sala macchine delle OGR, col pubblico seduto, diradato tra posti a sedere in parterre e gradinate, inizia la promessa “new experience” del trio, tra rarefazione ed improvvisazione: di “nuovo” ed evenemenziale c’è però ben poco. Stabilite a priori solo le coordinate iniziali della partitura, l’interazione istintiva dei tre mantiene abbastanza le peculiarità dei singoli, tracciando uno curva che ben presto diventa – purtroppo – linea retta, piatta. Concettualmente doveva trattarsi di un “viaggio senza piani nè restrizioni” ma la destinazione? E’ pur vero che i tre miravano ad accarezzare “un’idea prima che questa venga fissata nella mente come concetto”, suggerire più che mostrare, ma la sensazione è che nella rotta tracciata all’interno dei meandri della psiche qualcosa si sia perso per strada o non sia andato a buon fine. L’essenzialità non deve diventare bulimia e l’introspezione non può diventare indulgenza. Almeno non (sotto)stando all’indiscussa caratura artistica dei personaggi coinvolti.
Ancora una mezz’ora avrebbe fomentato sfoghi sulla falsa riga della (volutamente storpiata) “Corrazzata Potemkin” di fantozziana memoria? Denti stretti. Detto ciò, nonostante un composto fuggi-fuggi dell’audience che neanche alle conferenze sulle malattie sessualmente trasmissibili, il “mappasone” di The Kilowatt Hour offre spunti di riflessione ai cultori del genere. Per gli altri – i curiosi o peggio chi si aspettava un Sylvian-cantante per evocare i fantasmi del passato – neanche i visuals tripartiti ed in alta definizione salvano dalla rete della noia: una caleidoscopica mitosi cellulare, il diradarsi di masse gassose, l’alternarsi delle fasi lunari. Appuntamento extra-intellettuale o extra-intellettualoide, a voi la scelta. Nulla da rimproverare a MITO che organizza a puntino predisponendo la location perfetta: ad essere sottotono stavolta (per una volta?) non è l’organizzazione italiota, ma gli artisti sul palco.
”Cagata pazzesca” o sublime navigazione dell’Io? Elite o derelitto? Più semplicemente la prova opaca d’un trio di fuori classe in cui la somma delle parti non rende giustizia alla magnificenza delle Officine Grandi Riparazioni, almeno stasera.

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