German improvisers bridge divides to produce viscerally abstract, powerful music | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

German improvisers bridge divides to produce viscerally abstract, powerful music 

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click to enlarge Marcus Schmickler and Thomas Lehn

Marcus Schmickler and Thomas Lehn

MARKUS WERNER

These two purveyors of experimental electronic music based in Cologne, Germany, have forged a dynamic partnership over the last two decades, bridging differences in age, musical backgrounds, and the hardware they prefer to produce music of uncanny visceral power. Lehn’s analog synthesizer mastery is rooted in free improvisation, while Schmickler’s digital synthesis has a foundation in techno. Working together, they find a elusive yet thrilling common ground. On last year’s terrific Neue Bilder (Mikroton) their fast-moving, rapidly morphing collisions defy identification. I have serious trouble figuring out who’s doing what, but that certainly doesn’t matter much in the end: aqueous, sci-fi long tones are pitted against splattery, acidic noise bursts; echo-laden oscillated abstractions are slathered in blorpy, viscous drips; and so on. Each musician is deeply attuned to what the other is doing, and there seems to be zero latency in their reaction time; as their alien machinations unfold in quicksilver sprints, they pull the listener along for a disorienting, yet exhilarating ride. In their first local duo performance since 2005, the pair will premiere a new work called Prediction Control Allocation, a three-part improvisation where each section is built around different forms inspired by the ideas of composers Stockhausen, Xenakis, and Ligeti.   v

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