Concert review „Rhodri Davies & Stark Bewölkt Quartett“ 16.11.2011, Hörbar Hamburg
A smoky evening at the Hörbar
by Johan Redin
If you, by any chance, happens to be in the dodgy area of Reeperbahn in Hamburg – more or less an entire neighborhood dedicated to whoring, pornographic products, “screenings”, strip bars, fast food and alcohol – there is hope for survival if you just head in the direction towards St. Pauli and manage to find a back street that links to Birgittenstrasse. Then you should walk towards No. 5, and into the backyard, where the high-quality B-Movie theater is located. At this place, there is still 20th century; the smoke is heavy, and the beer is cheaper than the bus.
As a Swedish scout you must not panic just because people do not
follow what the authorities say. If you take just one deep breath
(cough) and take a closer look at the clientele you will find material
for all kind of stories to tell at home, with a brandy by the fire: “I
saw a man who sort of sawed in a camping table with a bow; and there
was this woman who played a trumpet that couldn’t be heard, but still
trying to knock life into something that looked like an common metal
sheet; and all this in a, for all in the group, apparent
correspondence with a man who has strangled his cello with
clothespins. There were also two other figures: one that with greatest
concentration dropped Styrofoam pieces and plastic spoons on speaker
elements, and another that with an enigmatic expression unleashed a
vibrating massage dog on a lying, electric harp.”
The ethnographic report should prove to be embroidered, yet
empirically complete. The place is also known as Hörbar, a church for
those who normally worships industrial thunder and audial abuse in
every conceivable form. However, the Holy King Tinnitus is not always
master of his own house. If you, like me, is lucky enough to step in
on a Wednesday evening, there is this club called “Stark Bewölkt”, the
most honorable improvisation scene in the hanseatic city.
For this evening they had the honor to invite the newly father and
harpist Rhodri Davies. And tonight’s ensemble: the Stark Bewölkt
Quartet – composer Michael Maierhof (prepared cello), Heiner Metzger
(sound table), Birgit Ulher (trumpet, radio) and Gregory Büttner
(speakers, vibrations and objects).
Davies opens with a solo piece, delivered with absolute control on his
more or less custom-made electric miniature harp. He makes small,
chiming sounds by shudder some clamps that are attached to the
strings, both by turning the harp in oscillating movements and with
e-bows. It is balanced, beautiful, inimitable.
After Davies piece the quartet comes up on stage, and together they
create a much rawer atmosphere, although it is not at all
confrontational playing. Rather, they gather inside a grainy, rough
texture and work themselves out. The sounds are fractured as soon as
they are created; sometimes it reminds me of the sounds when walking
in ice-crust snow. The piece has just the right length, and ends with
a weird and wonderful feeling of satisfaction that I think is shared
by all in the room, musicians and audience.
After a required pause of discussion and recreation in the form of the
local, quite dreadful beer Astra it is time again. Rhodri Davies is
still at service on the stage, this time in two trio formations. First
up are Davies, Metzger and Büttner that in different changing planes
produce a sometimes suspended, sometimes coherent sound progress.
Metzger’s instrument, a custom made “sound table” (which in fact is a
hypersensitive amplified surface) comes to its right when he almost
unnoticed moves between wobbling vertical sound (with cutlery and tiny
metal rods), to horizontal, low fringe motions with brushes.
The last set consists of Davies, Maierhof and Ulher. They set off in a
much more interwoven piece, but it does not end in any hack-in-toe
game. There are instants and pauses, sometimes raw, ugly sounds.
Maierhof handles an unconditional cello, even obstinate in its times,
that creates an unaffected dramatic texture, and renders the
development an interesting direction. Davies now plays with a bow,
which, together with Ulher’s absorbent trumpet, gives the interaction
a rather fragile form, regardless the sometimes critical edges. The
piece gives a concise impression, and round off the evening at a high
With those last sounds it is late at Hörbar, early morning even. It
was an excellent event, as absurd in its geography as obvious in its
praise of the immediate.
english translation by Johan Redin, published in original swedish at Sound of Music:
left to right: Heiner Metzger, Rhodri Davies, Michael Maierhof, Gregory Büttner, Birgit Ulher