till my breath gives out

:.:k:a:i:.:.:f:a:g:a:s:c:h:i:n:s:k:i:.: (c(l(a(r(i(n(e(t( . )))))

the magic i.d.
t i l l  m y  b r e a t h  g i v e s  o u t
erstpop 001/erstwhile records
out on cd (digipack) & lp (180g vinyl, gatefold cover)
(release date: 15/02/2008)

the magic i.d.:
kai fagaschinski (clarinet)
margareth kammerer (vocals & guitars)
christof kurzmann (vocals, g3 & lloopp)
michael thieke (clarinet)

1. true holiday 6'25
2. feet deep 4'59
3. wintersong 6'14
4. martin fierro 3'02
5. from the same road 8'13
6. loopstück 12'57

all music by kai fagaschinski (akm), margareth kammerer (gema), christof kurzmann (akm) & michael thieke (gema) except "wintersong" by kai fagaschinski, christof kurzmann & michael thieke, "feet deep" by kai fagaschinski, margareth kammerer & michael thieke, and "martin fierro" by margareth kammerer & christof kurzmann.
lyrics: "true holiday" (inspired by douglas crase's "true solar holiday"), "feet deep", "from the same road" by margareth kammerer, "wintersong" by christof kurzmann, "martin  fierro" by josé hernández (excerpts), and "loopstück" by nancy hamilton & christof kurzmann; sampled voice on "true holiday": assata shakur
recorded at amann studios, vienna in november 2006 by christoph amann
mixed by christoph amann & the magic i.d.
mastered by christoph amann
photography by gianmarco bresadola
coverart by marion gerth
supported by ske/austro mechana
produced by jon abbey & yuko zama


the wire There might be „Joy In Repetition“ for Prince, but for most improvisors, doing the same thing over and over again is strictly verboten. Imagine the surprise, then, when a Prince song popped up during one of the electroacoustic Improv‘s showcase festivals, hosted by the Erstwhile label in New York in May 2004, when laptopper Christof Kurzmann and guitarist Burkhard Stangl launched into „Sometimes It Snows In April“ from 1986‘s Parade, with impromptu backing vocals by Margareth Kammerer and Adeline Rosenstein, who were in the audience at the time.
Subsequently released as schnee_live on Erstwhile, it was a surprisingly successful meeting of two musical worlds that apparently have nothing in common: so-called EAI is exclusively instrumental and goes out of its way to avoid not only words but also rhythm, melody and harmony, while the hallmark of a great pop song is its hook, that instantly recognisable- ie repeated- riff, tune, or sequence of chords (two are often enough - ask Lou Reed). But the search for common ground between rigorous song form and unfettered free improvisation has led to some of the most exciting new music of the past 20 years, from groups as diverse as Gastr Del Sol and Volcano The Bear, and Christof Kurzmann soon made it clear that it was no whimsical one-off.
In The Wire 273 (November 2006), he announced that he and Margareth Kammerer had already teamed up with clarinettists Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski. They recorded the six songs on Till My Breath Gives Out in Vienna that same month. The four had already worked together on Thieke & Fagaschinski‘s 2006 outing Mainstream, and Kurzmann‘s Charhizma label had already released Kammerer‘s striking debut To Be An Animal Of Real Flesh in 2004. That same year, Kurzmann teamed up with Fagaschinski uder the moniker Kommando Raumschiff Zitrone and took Ewan MacColl (via Roberta Flack) for a ride into the EAI undergrowth on The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Till My Breath Gives Out inaugurates the new ErstPop imprint, but the musicians are wary of the P-word. „It‘s not the form that makes a song pop, but the production,“ says Kammerer. „I wouldn‘t say this is pop; the sound is too far removed from a pop sound.“ Indeed - with two clarinets on board it‘s closer to chamber music - but there‘s no shortage of hooks, and the arrangements are so meticulous and pared-down that they find our flesh at once and leave lasting traces. The songs were composed collectively through a process of trial and error. „There‘s almost no room for improvisation,“ Fagaschinski insists. „We developed them before going into the studio. This is not a post-production production.“
The subtly crafted tension between opposing forces is immediately apparent, both on the musical surface in the bittersweet clash of major and minor that opens „True Holiday“, and at the formal level, when the into grinds to a halt with the appearance of Kurzmann‘s laptop. Even when the song proper begins, the steely clarinet multiphonics and strange wails and twitters unsettle rather than underpin Kammerer‘s fragile voice. On „Feet Deep“, the rhythmic propulsion of her strumming is counterbalanced by the stasis of the clarinets. „Maybe I see you in slow motion/ Maybe my eyes have a special filter“, she sings, as the song finds its way into different tempo and tonality altogether. Kammerer and Kurzmann took turns in penning the lyrics, hers drawing inspiration from literature- „True Holiday“ references a Douglas Crase poem - and occasionaly quoting existing songs (here, Nany Hamilton‘s „How High The Moon“ in the closing „Loopstück“). Kurzmann‘s aren‘t overtly political, but his commitment to left wing causes is well known; the first voice we hear is that of Assata Shakur, former Black Panther and godmother of Tupac: „If we betray our living history then we are betraying ourselves. Fight for freedom.“ That fight is the album‘s neverending quest to reconcile the irreconcilable, the tracking shot of pop and the freeze frames of EAI, nowhere more evident than on the closing „Loopstück“. Here time seems to stand still, with Fagaschinski‘s delicate arpeggios, Thieke‘s chalumeau flutters and Kammerer lazily strumming a couple of chords that seem to have been plucked out of the air. Nebulous and dreamy, yet chillingly focused.
While it‘s hardly likely to go platinum, this album ought to garner the same critical acclaim, that greeted Scott Walker‘s The Drift or Joanna Newsom‘s Ys (indeed, fans of Newsom‘s singing will find much to identify with Kammerer‘s raw, cracked vocals). But whereas Walker‘s magnum opus aspires to gloomy universality and Newsom‘s breathes open country air suffused with the warm light of its luscious arrangements, Till My Breath Gives Out turns it on itself: „So winter came into the land/And all the colours came to an end/We were not shocked we knew it all/We kept our mouth shut from rise to fall/Comfortless land/Condemned notions/Abandoned cities/Deserted and bland.“ No thwacking hunks of meat, swirling strings or harpy flourishes to accompany that, just acrid microtonal clusters and the claustrophobic squelsh of Kurzmann‘s software. And yet „Wintersong“ is utterly haunting thanks to its strong melodic identity and the melancholy introspection of Kurzmann‘s singing. The drooping Lou Reed cadences are still in evidence on „Martin Fierro“, freely adapted from José Hernández‘s epic poem of the same name, but Kurzmann‘s phrasing and sense of line also owe much to the idiosyncrasies of the other songwriters he loves, including Neil Young, Jad Fair and Robert Wyatt, whose memorable handwritten liner notes to Nothing Can Stop Us come to mind: „You may notice some technical inadequancies in some of my performances - a hesitant beat here, a dodgy note there - these are of course entirely deliberate and reproduced as evidence of my almost painful sincerity.

by dan warburton (u.k., may 2008)
[featured review of the month/the wire charts "the office ambience"]

downtown music gallery I have to be upfront and admit that I've been extremely hesitant to attempt to put descriptive words to this music. I've put forth every possible procrastinatory excuse to NOT review this record for months now, and why? Because it's fantastic and alien, even in a shop that specializes in fantastic, alien sounds, even on a label (or rather a label's new subsidiary - "ErstPop" makes its debut here) which particularly states its case with some of the most fantastically alien sounds put to disc. Christof Kurzmann, Margareth Kammerer, Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke sculpt and bend thickets of twin clarinets, guitars, and electronic clicks and pops with that most alien, fantastic instrument of all, and the one perhaps most unlikely to appear on an Erst-related release - the human voice. Make no mistake, these are SONGS, and if anything, these are songs of protest - beautiful songs of protest, close in spirit to the groups of the Rock in Opposition school but with absolutely no "rock" to speak of.
In fact, this group's quiet, personal anger speaks to me in much the same way that Scott Walker's recent work often does, with much of the same hushed, hairs-on-goosepimples menace, though minus the bombast and operatics. It's extraordinarily exciting to discover another group attempting to present a new work of songform much the same way that Walker has attempted; while this record certainly won't appeal to everyone, it is daring and beautiful, and the more I listen to it, more subtle nuances and references reveal themselves. I won't spoil those references for you here, as it's more satisfying & easy to discover them yourself with a few simple keystrokes and mouseclicks on Wikipedia alone, though I'll say that I'm pretty sure this is the first album to quote both the Black Panther party and the pinnacle of gauchesque poetry. How do you "review" a record that has so few precedents? I suppose you don't - like any new language, the more you listen to and speak it yourself, the more you'll eventually learn. Kudos to all parties involved.

by mikey iq jones (u.s.a., march 2008)

chicago reader Four habitues of Berlin’s thriving electroacoustic improv scene—guitarist and vocalist Margareth Kammerer, computer manipulator Christof Kurzmann, and clarinetists Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke—have put together six strange tunes that really have their hooks in me. Calling them pop would be quite a stretch, but there’s no confusing them with the abstract improvised music the folks in the Magic I.D. normally play. Built around Kammerer’s measured strumming and vocal melodies (Kurzmann also does some singing, though it’s hardly his strong suit), this low-key record marries loose song forms with the extended techniques of free improv, creating something stranger, richer, and more original than the sum of its parts.
Kammerer has a wonderfully peculiar voice—strong and sanguine, but with a sorrowful, fluttering vibrato, it suggests an alternate-universe Billie Holiday who cut her teeth on British folk songs. There are no big hooks here, no verse-chorus structures, but neither is there any of the disorienting noise common in electroacoustic improv—everything is elegant and nuanced, and as such it’s relatively accessible, even at its strangest. Fagaschinski and Thieke’s braided clarinets kick off the opener, “True Holiday,” rising and falling in a soothing melodic pattern and then settling into a drone, at which point they’re joined by electronic flickers and chirps from Kurzmann and a sampled spoken-word passage by Assata Shakur. Soon Kammerer’s steady acoustic chords signal the start of what you might call the singer-songwriter part; her vocals and guitar are kissed by Kurzmann’s swoops and twitters and shadowed by new clarinet lines that drift in and out of harmony with the melody and each other, an effective gambit the reedists have imported from their more abstract work.
All the pieces have multiple sections, but within each there’s elaboration, usually from the clarinetists: on “Feet Deep” they alternate between long tones that sound like amplifier feedback, cranking up the tension of Kammerer’s scrappy electric guitar, and wobbly licks that cross paths with her vocals almost drunkenly. A couple years ago Fagaschinski and Thieke released the excellent duo recording Mainstream (Ftarri) as the International Nothing, and their rapport is powerful here—they seem to function as a single voice much of the time.
The constant slippages and shifts within the arrangements make this an absorbing “pop” record, albeit one more notable for its ability to surprise than for the strength of its melodies. It’s also fascinating approached as an experimental record—the radical techniques of free improv gain power when they’re focused by composed structures. Till My Breath Gives Out may not be the kind of pop music that’ll hold up well on your iPod at the gym, but it deserves closer attention than that anyway.

by peter margasak (u.s.a., april 2008)

sands zine La nascita dei Magic I.D. si deve a cicliche cooperazioni che in precedenza rendono possibile ai quattro titolari di suonare tra essi. Il duo di clarinetti tra Kai Fagaschinski e Michael Thieke, The International Nothing; l’aiuto al debutto dei due (“Mainstream”) da parte della Kammerer e di Kurzmann con due, individuali contributi. Se vi ricordate, la Margareth, dopo la gestazione delle Fastilio, fece conoscere a largo spiano la sua voce con un magnifico “To Be An Animal Of Real Flash”, uscito proprio per casa Charhizma di Christof. Non scordando, poi, nemmeno la parentesi del Kommando Raumschiff Zitrone, invadiamo un terreno della cosiddetta sperimentazione europea che, mai come in altri frangenti, si slega energicamente e con innata convizione da ogni precisa forma di espressione simil-radicale. L’unica cosa che sappiamo è che "Till my Breath Gives Out" è scolpito con l’intento originario di stampare un’indelebile marchio di delicatezza-pop dentro un mare magnum di astratta… incorporea avanguardia.
Di sicuro, all’interno del cd scorrono indubbie le dissimili identità dei musicisti. La Kammerer rincorre ancora un tipico modo d’intendere il canto toccando sponde dal retrò-gusto jazzistico, avvalendosi solo di velate pennellate e qualche arpeggio di chitarra. Un intimismo rispettoso della calma e innocente che si può conferire parimenti, sotto diversa forma, ai fiati della coppia Fagaschinski / Thieke. Il solo a rendere parametri d’azione lievemente distanti dal solito mood è Mr Kurzmann: il quale gioca con un’elettronica, sì introspettiva, ma molto più malleabile, lasciandosi al contempo rapire da graziosi esperimenti di canto (Wintersong e il suadente duetto charleston / old-ballad con la Maggy di Martin Fierro). Sia le geometrie minimaliste, ad apertura di True Holiday, che il movimento reiterato fra intervalli suono-silenzio, digital micro-wave e malinconia dei clarinetti in From The Same Road si svelano come gli avamposti di una sperimentazione più massimalista.
La registrazione del disco, seguita ad un prima esibizione berlinese, ha inoltre avviato una nuova collana della Erstwhile; la ErstPop dovrebbe fungere proprio da facile approdo per tutti i musicisti che da slanci sonori extra-contemporanei decidano di aprire un varco nel naturale e spontaneo anfratto della forma-canzone.

by sergio eletto (italy, march 2008)

other music The notion of fusion within music is becoming ever more popular. The breadth of styles that have been created, imagined, and marketed in contemporary music is nothing short of overwhelming, and sometimes disillusioning. Many innovators have not tried to create their own style but instead, seamlessly meshed existing styles into something that may sound new and exciting, but ultimately is a rehashing of old sounds and old music. Finally, a record that is new.
Till My Breath Gives Out, the debut album by Berlin-based the Magic I.D. (featuring noted improvisers Christof Kurzmann and Kai Fagaschinski, as well as Margareth Kammerer and Michael Thieke), is a purposeful mixture, an attempt to reconcile what is an illusory and pretentious division between free improvisation and pop music. The first release on Erstwhile subsidiary ErstPop, neither musicians nor label have any qualms of admitting this, nor should they. While other people have ventured into this territory, these records were too cautious in exploring the pop structures that give TMBGO so much strength. However, to come in expecting pop music played by improvisers is a mistake. Although Kurzmann was involved in a somewhat similar project before with B. Fleischmann in The Year Of, this ensemble does not adhere so strictly to pop formats, venturing further into abstraction, while maintaining a steady musical base. This is by no means an easy record to be jumped into with reckless abandon, because this is not pop music; this is something new. New things are difficult to approach, and I have spent a large amount of time with this album, and I am still not sure just how to listen to it. To quote the final track, "Somewhere there's music, it's where you are." This is music that stays with you, wherever you are. I have spent countless hours with this record, and I will spend countless more.

by l.r. (u.s.a., march 2008)

bad alchemy Pop? Koketterie, oder Insiderscherz? Oder nur der Warnhinweis, dass Erstwhile jetzt auch Songs mit Schrapp- und Klampfgitarre im Programm hat? Two clarinets and a guitar / Played a song from somewhere far. Kai Fagaschinski rechts und Michael Thieke, sein Partner auch in The International Nothing, links und dazwischen Margareth Kammerer. Ihre Altstimme und die Eigenart, wie sie ‚flötet‘, ist freiweg zum Dahinschmelzen. Christof Kurzmann wickelt diese Lieder per g3 & Laptop in Cellophan und den ‚Wintersong‘ singt er dann selbst. Eine melancholische Dystopie, in der Schnee sich wie ein Leichentuch breitet über Comfortless land / Condemned nations / Abandoned cities / Deserted and bland. Die Klarinetten blasen meist schwebende Haltetöne, hier sind sie der Schnee, dort ein zeitlupiger Blick oder das weiße Mondlicht. Im Wechsel mit Kammerer singt der Österreicher eine bittersüße Strophe aus ‚Martin Fierro‘, dem argentinischen Gaucho-Epos von José Hernandez (1834-86). Das abschließende, knapp 13-min. ‚Loopstück‘ scheint lang nur ein minimalistisches, vor sich hin brütendes Instrumental zu sein, gipfelt aber in einem Lovesong, in den Nancy Hamiltons ‚How High The Moon‘-Lyrics verwoben sind: The darkest night would shine / If you would come to me soon / Until you will, how still my heart / How high the moon. Das ist so eigen wie schön. [BA 58 rbd]
by rigobert dittmann (germany, may 2008)

freistil Eine um nichts weniger als wunderschöne Platte erreicht uns hiermit aus Berlin. Gleich auf mehreren Ebenen - wenn schon nicht auf milles plateaux - vermag The Magic I.D. verzaubern: auf jener der improvisierten und komponierten zeitgenössischen E-Musik durch die beiden Klarinettisten Fagaschinski & Thieke, auf jener der sonaren Elektronik durch Kurzmanns Computersounds und auf jener des gerad- bis schlangenlinigen Popsongs durch Kammerers Gitarre, über der ihr Gesang mit der unverwechselbaren Stimme von Christof Kurzmann abwechselt und einmal aufs zarteste überschneidet. Dass für diese, im Wiener Amann-Studio fein säuberlich aufgenommene Pop/Impro/Kammermusik-Verknüpfung bei Erstwhile Records die Zweigstelle ErstPop aus der Taufe gehoben und eröffnet wurde, kommt mir nur logisch vor. Wir sehen in dieser neuen Filiale das Songformat durch die Lupe der experimentellen Musik und die Abstraktion durch das Fernrohr des Songs. Das schaut von beiden Seiten außerordentlich gut aus und steht in dieser (Hoch-)Form - allenfalls neben Robert Wyatt - allein auf weiter Flur. Beauty is a rare thing.
by andreas fellinger (austria, june 2008)

allaboutjazz italia Semplice, complesso? Volete che dopo anni di commistioni tra songwriting e elettronica qualcuno ci venga a dire qualcosa che ancora non sapevamo? O peggio che ci venga a svelare con lo sguardo sereno di chi non ci può fare nulla, una poesia dannatamente convincente? Possibile?
Possibilissimo. Fuori i nomi: i due clarinetti Kai Fagaschinski e Michael Thieke - già attivi come duo The International Nothing - la chitarrista acustica e incantevole cantante Margareth Kammerer [dall'AltoAdige a Berlino] e un personaggio fondamentale dell'elettronica viennese come “Mr. Charhizma” Christof Kurzmann. Si annusano i quattro, osano, non hanno paura di spezzettare il poligono, di ricomporlo, di lavorarci con curiosità esplorativa ed ecco spuntare come un fiore profumatissimo in mezzo al palmo di una mano The Magic I.D.
La particolare strumentazione spinge i musicisti a sintetizzare le idee, tra lirismi obliqui e increspature da quiete dopo la tempesta glitch: dolcissime linee melodiche, i clarinetti che si impastano come stelle doppie scure dentro un cielo di legno, le particelle digitali che si depositano con l'ostinazione di una goccia, nelle sei tracce del disco si stende una flemmatica fiducia nel potere del suono.
Dire a che somigliano le canzoni di The Magic I.D. è come tentare di definire il sapore delle fragole: puoi usare qualche aggettivo generico, puoi associarlo a qualcosaltro di vagamente simile [alcune aperture ricordano ad esempio l'Arto Lindsay più blasè, altre ostinazioni però sono lì a smentirci], ma se non assaggi non lo potrai mai sapere e per ricordartene dovrai di nuovo gustare.
Ecco perché, con la sua andatura apparentemente annoiata e un po' casalinga, come un legnetto indie scarnificato da un affilato coltellino digitale, silenzioso e dilatato quando serve, pronto a colpire con dense pennellate di suono, Till My Breath Gives Out è un disco da non perdere, una specie di piccolo breviario di malinconie digitali da tenere sempre con sé. Pssss… è grande pop, ma non ditelo a nessuno!

by enrico bettinello (italy, may 2008)

squid's ear Erstwhile Record's first foray into "pop" music won't strike many as being in a pop mold, but it does extend the understated forms of electro-acoustic music into more embraceable yet still abstract song territory. lowercase song forms, you think? Not completely, but there are so many tonal and minimal aspects to this album that the comparison has to be made. It's probably more accurate to say that this blends the sensibility of minimal ea-improvisation with the avant/minimal compositional world, adding a song sensibility that understands and plays with popular form. The pieces have a strong use of dynamics and harmonics, with unconventional repetition and rhythm, a detached put clear vocal style, wielded with a subtle hand that implies the concentrative interaction of improvised music in conjunction with strong compositional skills.
Michael Thieke is perhaps best known for his work with on the Creative Sources label, alone and in a quartet with label leader Ernesto Rodrigues; he's also a part of The International Nothing, another fascinating minimalist recording group which, not surprisingly, has all of the players on The Magic I.D. at one point or another. Clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski has worked with vocalist and electronics artist Christof Kurzmann on their excellent duo record under the name Kommando Raumschiff Zitrone, First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, covering the Roberta Flack number of the same name, along with other songs of delicacy and a hint of space's massive vacuum. Kurzmann has also recorded with John Butcher on The Big Misunderstanding Between Hertz and Megahertz. Margareth Kammerer is also heard as a vocalist on Otomo Yoshihide's ONJO New Jazz Live Series 1 & 2.
"True Holiday" opens till my breath gives out with a Kafka-esque quality of distant despair in the dual tonal clarinet work of Thieke and Fagaschinski. They practically birth the album in long coloured tones that suddenly break into Kammerer's impassive vocal, telling us that she can prove that we've met before. In fact, in an over-the-shoulder way, one almost shivers to feel that they've been listening to this song for years without ever noticing it. That implication is prominent, a distantly familiar soundscape and subdued words, ideational tales that carry an isolable openness; they simply make sense when you finally hear them.
"Martin Fierro" is the most song-like of the album, backed by the strumming guitar of Margareth Kammerer. It's a pretty piece in its way, and acts as a bit of relief from the remote intensity of the balance of the songs. "Loopstuck" shows the stylistic border for this band, coming close to silliness in its plaintive sing-song quality, ultimately brought back by Kammerer's entrance with the warmly pale abstraction that makes these pieces work. "Wintersong" is an extraordinary example of what this band is capable of, Kurzmann's voice carrying a European pathos in a song that parallels the starkness of winter with the colourless march of nation states. The song evokes an Art Bears sensibility while only needing a hint of their instrumentation. The intensity of tones and their intersection makes a sort of pure tension that hunches your shoulders as though something were about to drop out of the sky, using urgent siren-like dissonance, disturbed thumping sounds, and electronically pulsing panic buttons. When the music breaks free of the instrumental section for the final lyric it leaves you expecting winter to wrap its frozen arms around you, a superb example of how less can be so much more.

by phil zampino (u.s.a., march 2008)

mimaroglu music february 2008 release ; the debut album by the quartet of christof kurzmann, margareth kammerer, michael thieke, and kai fagaschinski as the magic i.d. ... the formation of yet another erstwhile sub-label (following on the heels of erstlive and erstsolo) specifically for this release is telling, as is the fact that it’s the first erst to be released on vinyl (jon & co have done an excellent job here - the mastering/pressing quality is superb & the whole package is very eye-popping, esp. the gatefold [below] ...)
the reason for all of this? “till my breath gives out” is a pop-record - albeit one composed/performed by key members of the berlin electro-acoustic/free improvisation “scene” & strongly informed by the lexicon of sound-producing gestures that goes hand-in-hand with said. the instrumentation (guitar, laptop, two clarinets panned hard left / right) lends to a certain impressionistic flair ... the use of space & dissonant tonal clusters does remind me of that oft-cited mark hollis solo record, but not overtly so. kammerer’s vocal delivery is lovely & very much indebted to billie holiday, whereas kurzmann’s has more in common with tom rapp (mainly in that it’s a taste that, when acquired, ends up being very comforting) ... his plaintive guitar figures are simple & unadorned, the digital sequences pushed into the background for the most part. even thieke & fagaschinski’s dovetailing upper-register lines are made somehow more pleasant through their association with the breezy art-song herein ...

by ??? (u.s.a., march 2008)

westzeit Nur selten kann man bei Musik "neu und(!) gut" attestieren. Hier aber, wo sich mit Margareth Kammerer, Kai Fagaschinski, Christof Kurzmann und Michael Thieke vier gestandene Helden der Berlin-Wiener Improvisationsszene daran machen, FreeMusic-Erfahrungen mit FolkSongwriting zu verbinden, wird etwas überaus Intensives erzeugt. Das Klanggefühl der kundigen Abstrakt-Musikanten trifft auf die schlichte Schönheit vertraute(re)r Kompositionsformen. 2 Klarinetten und Kurzmanns "lloopp"-Software auf'm G3 unterstützen Kammerers (und manchmal auch Kurzmanns) Gesang, der wesentlich von einer ganz konventionell gespielten Gitarre strukturiert wird - Nina Nastasia besteigt hier ganz unaufgeregt das Raumschiff Zitrone.

by karsten zimalla (germany, may 2008)

vital weekly Improvisation and popmusic is a rare combination, but it's surely an interest for Kai Fagaschinski and Christof Kurzmann. They worked together on a release before, 'First Time I Ever Saw Your Face' by Kommando Raumschiff Zitrone, but that was merely a shadow of what now has become The Magic I.D. Back then (Vital Weekly 567) things were still firmly rooted in improvisation, here it's starting to shape up as popmusic. The band has two clarinet players. On the right hand Kai Fagaschinski  and on the left Michael Thieke, whereas there is also on Margareth Kammerer on vocals and guitars and Kurzmann on vocals, laptop and lloop. As you should I always welcome popmusic, be it stupid, be it intelligent, and most of all in combination with all the other musical interests I have. So: hurrah to The Magic I.D.  The pieces were recorded live in the studio, with the emphasis on the voice of Kammerer, who sings them with a rather sweet, jazzy voice. Sometimes in duet with Kurzmann whose voice fits well. The music on the other hand is all improvised, of course with a large portion for the two clarinets. The laptop is merely an ornament, keeping things reduced to the background, while the guitar gently weeps in the wind. Still the improvisational aspects of this release are high and mighty, but they break away from the routines that sometimes hoover in these areas and combine it with something entirely different. The Magic I.D. are not likely to be seen on MTV miming their hit, nor easily in anything even remotely alternative popmusic, or jazz by any standard. So they find a voice of their own, a rarity these days. This offers many new roads to be explored. Perhaps Erstwhile, on whose sub division this is, will surprise us some more.
by frans de waard (netherlands, march 2008)

ondarock Ovvero, come quattro musicisti di difforme estrazione concepirono, ai nostri tempi, un misto musicale inaudito e folgorante. Tutto è nato un paio d’anni fa, da una collaborazione tra i due clarinettisti esordienti Kai Fagaschinski e Michael Thieke (alias The International Nothing) con la compositrice e cantante Margareth Kammerer (autrice di un memorabile act digitale come “To Be An Animal Of Real Flesh”) per l’esordio “Mainstream” (2006).
Christof Kurzmann, sensibile musicista viennese conteso tra mille progetti, nonché titolare dell’etichetta Charhizma, è poi stato contattato per lavorare su un remix di un brano dal disco dei due. Svelandosi l’un l’altro, peculiarmente, emotivamente, questo inedito quartetto inizia a lavorare assieme su nuovo materiale musicale per quattro elementi, ma anche su parti relative ad ambiti ristretti a duo e trio. Di lì a poco, fondano The Magic I.D. con sede a Berlino.
“Till My Breath Gives Out”, pubblicato in questi giorni, è il primo immaginoso, allarmante frutto di esperimenti compiuti assieme: ineffabili virgulti musicali, avvincenti reazioni sorte tra individui, ai quali "fisicità" e "respiri" provengono da diverse esperienze e saggezze. Vezzi dissimili ma complementari, quando a guidarli è il giusto motivo, oltre all’invisibile, capricciosa fantasia che orchestra una nuova forma.
Privilegiando un’aura introspettiva e minimale, malinconica e cordiale, i protagonisti perlustrano gli estremi dell’emozione in gesti domestici e sguardi deferenti, al cospetto del fragile velo tra silenzio e suono. Come mirabilmente esemplifica l’ingresso “True Holiday”, da cui diparte questo insolito, ineffabile viaggio (con tanto di sbuffo di treno a suggerire un distacco, un rimpianto, lasciti del tempo). L’inquieto, misterioso calore di “Feet Deep” è pervaso dallo spettro del rock più interiore da alba anni 90: Slint in cerca di una voce muliebre dopo "Spiderland" avrebbero verosimilmente prodotto questo sbocco. E la prosecuzione “Wintersong” dal crooning esangue, i fiati sinistri e le lievi pulsazioni di tastiera (direi alla Tortoise), non s’allontana da quel rifugio.
Il coinvolgente percorso musicale del disco ora si versa ora s’assottiglia, come luce interposta, in chirurgica alternanza. Scorrono sequenze di fantasie strumentali, tra i pendii del clarinetto, negli arpeggi sospesi di chitarra, nell’allerta di uno screzio glitch, il cui potenziale torna a esprimersi alto, brillando per ingegno. E ancora, passaggi canori intrisi di alma blues o lusinganti modulazioni jazz, su fondi ambient, o trame post-rock a tendere il quadro. L’eredità dell’improvvisazione aleggia sovente, tra sottili apparizioni cerulee (strumenti e voce in “From The Same Road”) e duttili cromature da crepuscolo (il moto inquieto e allucinato in “Loopstück”), offrendo il giusto orientamento, tanto nell’indeterminazione di un tuffo nell’astratto, quanto nel sincronismo strumentale più rigido.
Ma, si badi, il comune denominatore in tutto il progetto è il pop. Obiettivo ultimo, punto di sbocco, foce di strumenti di ieri e di oggi. Il pop è l’arteria che media e coniuga timbri e accenti più svariati.Verso nuovi, possibili sensi.

by fabio russo (italy, april 2008)

all about jazz The release of Till My Breath Gives Out caused something of a ripple to run through the ether—not an earthquake, but a sizeable ripple. The reason? Erstwhile Records, that bastion of “eai” (electroacoustic improv), has released a CD that purports to be pop, even going so far as to specially create a new imprint, Erstpop, for its release. Of course, it isn't actual pop (whatever that is!) but it is a long way from any previous Erstwhile release. The really surprising elements, and the ones that give it that “pop” label, are the prevalence of melody and vocals with lyrics.
This release won't shock anyone familiar with Christof Kurzmann and Kai Fagaschinski's work on First Time I Ever Saw Your Face (Quincux, 2007); and if you aren't familiar with it, check it out. The combination of twin clarinets, subtle electronics and voices seems deceptively simple, but it makes a heady cocktail. The combined effect creates a unique soundscape; after hearing two seconds of this music, it could be mistaken for nothing else.
Margareth Kammerer's voice is the trademark sound of the whole album, its focus. By turns, it is impassioned, then emotionally cool, then detached (in the style of Nico, say); but throughout it is highly expressive. In contrast, Kurzmann's own singing on “Wintersong” has a plaintive, haunting quality. Unexpectedly, this piece is strongly reminiscent of The Incredible String Band; it has the feel of a folk ballad, and the melody often sounds as if it is being invented in the moment. This is a recurring paradox of this music: the songs are finely crafted but also have a spontaneous, improvised feel. On “Martin Fierro,” a ridiculously catchy song that truly justifies the “pop” tag, Kammerer and Kurzmann sing call-and-response, Kurzmann taking the verses, Kammerer the chorus; the results are utterly charming.
Fine as they are, the vocals do not dominate the album. In fact, the final two tracks seem like completely instrumental pieces—only for vocals to appear in each as a delightful surprise, a surprise that recurs with each listen. Neither piece obeys the rules of any song form; rather they subtly subvert song form. On “From the Same Road,” Kammerer only sings briefly, the piece being dominated by the beautiful melancholy of the clarinet. The closing track, “Loopstuck” (a wittily apt title), the longest at almost thirteen minutes, develops a repetitive, mesmeric quality in its first half, as a simple repeated (looped) passage of strummed guitar and low clarinet builds tension until one longs for release. The release eventually comes in the form of an understated recited verse from Kurzmann, followed by a chorus from Kammerer.
This is a uniquely rich, strange album that deserves to be very influential.

by john eyles (u.s.a., july 2008)

sound of music ”Till my Breath Gives Out” är en fantastisk skiva. Margareth Kammerer, Christof Kurzmann, Michael Thieke och Kai Fagaschinski blandar hämningslöst abstrakt impro med popens strukturer och melodier. Men resultatet lutar egentligen inte åt någon av dessa sällan korsbefuktade genrer, utan placerar sig på helt egna ben.
Hemmastadda i Berlin (om än Kurzmann ursprungligen kommer från Wien och Kammerer från Italien) befinner sig dessa fyra musiker även inom den avskalade improvisationsmusiken. Och visst finns det gemensamma nämnare hos impron och det de gör i The Magic ID. Men att dra ifrån och främmandegöra instrumenten är egentligen inte vad det handlar om här. I stället är det instrumentsättningen som ger gruppen dess speciella sound: två klarinetter (Thieke och Fagaschinski), gitarr (Kammerer), G3-dator och Iloop (Kurzmann) och sång (Kammerer och Kurzmann).
Klarinetterna är just klarinetter och spelade i det lägre registret med långa eller pulserande toner framträder instrumenten som mycket bra pŒ att alstra komp. De ger lyster och den där lite fint sorgliga stämningen. Att både Thieke och Fagaschinski dessutom behärskar instrumenten till fullo gör naturligtvis sitt till. Det finns ingen tvekan, även väldigt mjuka och bräckliga rytmiska melodier framförs med övertygelse. Till detta Kurzmanns loopar och lite bubblande G3 och Kammerers gitarr.
Även om de sex låtarna på ”Till My Breath Gives Out” har sina fasta och hörbara strukturer ska man inte lura sig själv. Trots allt är det en ganska abstrakt musik det handlar om. Men det abstrakta tar på något underligt sätt ändå form. Ett skäl är att samtliga låtar har sång. Jag märker att det tar ett tag att till fullo uppskatta Margareth Kammerers något mörka och pratsjungande sätt att framföra orden, men när jag till slut gör det är jag fast. På ”Feet Deep” far tanken iväg till en upptagning med PJ Harvey på gitarr och sång kompad av två klarinetter. Coolt!
Kurzmann lutar också åt det pratsjungande och han har i andra sammanhang faktiskt jämförts med Lou Reed. Det är inte så framträdande här, men jag förstår tanken.
Jag kan inte annat än att å det varmaste rekommendera ”Till my Breath Gives Out”. Den beträder ganska sällan skådade marker inom den genreöverskridande musiken på ett väldigt levande sätt. Den ger faktiskt en riktig aha-upplevelse – men kan även spela så här!
”Till my Breath Gives Out” är den första skivan från det amerikanska bolaget Erstpop, en underetikett till Erstwhile som ger ut mestadels improvisationsmusik.

by magnus olsson (sweden, may 2008)

touching extremes Two clarinets, one per stereo channel (Kai Fagaschinski, Michael Thieke), two vocalists (Margareth Kammerer, also on guitar, and Christoph Kurzmann, also on G3 and Lloopp software). The Magic I.D. came together in the summer of 2005, are mostly based in Berlin and keen on overlapping the unfussiness of a pop tune and the nuances of sophisticated configurations of contemporary improvisation. One feels like looking for buried secrets and curled smoke behind a rather simple façade, but that's not the case: the record is indeed straightforward in its constituents, all clearly deployed and very visible. Then again, that music should unavoidably be complicated to bring fulfilment has become an invalid theory even in intellectually bent circles. Kammerer's acoustic strumming and frail vocal tone sometimes recall her earlier work in "To be an animal of real flesh" (not coincidentally released on Kurzmann's own Charhizma label), giving the idea of an unadulterated approach to songwriting. No finesse, lots of purity. A few traps to the linearity of the tunes are set up by the Austrian, who proceeds to enhance, cuddle and slap a bit, adding a touch of unfamiliarity to relatively standard principles besides lending his crooning. The reed combine of Fagaschinski and Thieke maintains the whole in indefinite suspension between different textural worlds, letting the songs float around rickety tonal centres whose potential dissolution should constitute the remuneration for the tolerance of an audience who used to look for hitches and now finds only a somewhat humpbacked, if heart-warming lyricism.
by massimo ricci (italy, august 2008)

pinkushion Entre les mains expertes de ces Berlinois la pop revêt des atours musicaux que l’on aimerait voir plus souvent explorés. Un premier album magistral.
Si le quartet The Magic I.D., fondé en 2005, est ce que l’on peut appeler vulgairement une découverte, ses membres constitutifs ne sont plus vraiment des débutants. La trentaine bien tassée, Kai Fagaschinski, Christof Kurzmann, Michael Thieke et Margareth Kammerer ont tous déjà bourlingué par monts et par vaux, sous leur propre nom ou au sein de formations dévolues majoritairement à l’improvisation. Suffisamment en tous les cas pour prétendre aujourd’hui à une reconnaissance qui déborderait le cercle d’initiés dans lequel ils ont été confinés jusqu’ici. Ainsi considéré, nul doute que The Magic I.D. constitue une voie royale, tout en restant exigeante, pour pénétrer un territoire - post-pop - par essence plus populaire. Loin des investigations prétentieuses et de l’exhibition gratuite de ses savoirs, le groupe Berlinois opte plutôt pour une recherche esthétique raffinée et collective qui, sans conforter l’auditeur dans ses habitudes, a le modeste souci de le séduire durablement.
Peu commune l’association instrumentale de deux clarinettes (Fagaschinski à droite et Thieke à gauche), de deux guitares, électrique et acoustique (Kurzmann/Kammerer), et de deux voix (masculine/féminine, Kurzmann/Kammerer), combinée aux manipulations électroniques de Kurzmann, attise, ne serait-ce que sur le papier, la curiosité tant elle peut sembler de prime abord être un obstacle au développement d’un univers de nature popisante. Certes, si une telle instrumentation n’est pas sans tenir de la musique de chambre, l’écriture du groupe l’adapte soigneusement à un format de chansons, affranchies toutefois des canons du genre (structure binaire du ce couplet/refrain, mélodie addictive identifiable d’emblée, efficacité des arrangements) et pouvant mordre autant sur le terrain abstrait que mélodique. Seule la chaloupée “Martin Fiero”, adaptée librement d’un texte du poète argentin José Hernández, répond aux impératifs d’une architecture assez prévisible, calée sur un beau dialogue mixte à deux voix, des arpèges de guitare acoustique et un tempo languide. Quant aux cinq autres morceaux, d’une durée allant de cinq à treize minutes, force est de constater qu’ils échappent à toute forme d’anticipation, mêlant composition savante et improvisation finement imbriquée, sans que l’on parvienne d’ailleurs à déterminer où s’arrête l’une pour commencer l’autre.
Malgré le jaune pimpant de sa pochette, l’ambiance de Till My Breath Gives Out s’avère globalement automnale. Les tonalités lancinantes des deux clarinettes déterminent des lignes de fuite inquiétantes, presque oppressantes, qui s’enfoncent en fusionnant dans l’épaisseur du temps pour mieux le plier à leur ultime direction, jouant parfois d’effets de feedback sur fond d’arrière-monde électronique angoissant. Sur l’inaugural “True Holiday”, par exemple, au moment précis de leur disparition, elles ouvrent une brèche où se fait jour la diction de Margareth Kammerer : cette dernière vient alors indiquer d’emblée la portée subtilement politique de l’album, en empruntant des vers du poète américain Douglas Grase ponctués d’un ressac sonore mugissant. Puis sa voix lumineuse et sensible - un chant diaphane comparé un peu hâtivement à celui de Joanna Newsom - accompagnée d’une guitare acoustique, avance, imperturbable, alors que l’environnement électroacoustique alentour semble vouloir constamment la recouvrir, l’anéantir, ce jusqu’à ce que la musicienne entonne un « out of the time » mâtiné de désespoir. Cette tranquillité, au moins apparente, de la voix limpide, sereine, qui contraste avec un paysage sonore indéterminé et étiré confère à Till My Breath Gives Out sa force tragique et infiniment troublante. Greffe de l’affect sur l’horizon d’un monde mécanisé en manque de perspectives, besoin vital de survivre au milieu d’un chaos organisé et aliénant.
Ce travail virtuose sur la durée et l’étendue (un instrument exprime sa raison d’être et sa force émotionnelle sitôt que la composition lui laisse le temps de s’étirer dans l’espace), qui rappelle par maints aspects celui de Gastr Del Sol, prend toute son ampleur sur l’intense “Winterssong”. Au début minimaliste du morceau (le mariage de la voix grave de Kurzmann et des deux clarinettes fait songer à de la musique contemporaine), succèdent des motifs électroniques répétitifs (rebonds sonores d’une balle virtuelle de droite à gauche, ajouts de sons cadencés et itératifs) qui signifient une temporalité marquée, dissonante et envahissante, mais au final maîtrisée. La tension contenue dans cet assemblage musical, où la fixité le dispute à une panique froide en parfaite adéquation avec des mots utilisés comme autant d’armes (« Comfortless land/Condemned nations/Abandoned critics/Deserted and bland »), montre qu’au-delà des espaces post-pop, confondants de beauté et d’inventivité, The Magic I.D. conçoit la musique pleinement comme un devoir de résistance : résistance à l’étiquetage, aux carcans formels, à l’air vicié du temps, aux molles pensées. Prenons-en acte sans plus attendre.

by fabrice fuentes (france, july 2008)

a2 - kulturni tydenik „Bittovou a Zappu u nás prostě hrát nemůžeme,“ říkal mi před lety šéfredaktor mainstreamové stanice. Nevnucoval jsem mu je před tím hovorem ani po něm, ale myslel na to, jak nešikovně si to tam vymezují. Možná by si spíš měli zakazovat nevhodnou (třeba moc složitou) hudbu, a ne jména. Vždyť tolik „tvrdohlavých“ tvůrců příležitostně koketovalo s  tradicí, hudební líbivostí, „obyčejnou“ písničkou. Každý dramaturg hodný toho označení by měl vědět, co melodického a zvukově nekontroverzního se dá zahrát od Bittové, Cage, Andersonové, Björk, Zorna, Neubautenů nebo z nahrávek Agonu, když na to přijde.
Napětí mezi avantgardisty a písničkou má dlouhou historii. Cathy Barberianová, žena Luciana Beria, zpívala v avant-operní stylizaci Beatles, svou „písničkovou“ tvář má zenová siréna Yoko Ono i duchovní extatička Alice Coltraneová, do dvou rozdílných světů z téže hranice cestují John Cale či David Sylvian. John Zorn, dlouholetý organizátor newyorské progresivní scény, opakovaně ukázal, jak rád kromě abstraktní hudby zachází s lacinými prvky filmové hudby, surf rocku či koktejlového snění o exotice. Když Yoshihide Otomo natočil album „evergreenů“ s kapelou Ground Zero, slavné melodie zněly nátlakovým řevem, jenž si razil cestu přehuštěnou informační džunglí. Nejradikálnější z kytarových improvizátorů Derek Bailey neměl rád myšlenku, že volné hraní má kořeny v jazzu – a přece na sklonku života nahrál Standards a Ballads, kde se odpíchl od slavných témat. Jestliže nálepka „alternativy“ často skrývá kvazirockové kapely, které se odpoutávají od písňové jednoduchosti, pak toto je její opak: složitější tvůrci, které zlákalo něco prostšího.
Čekal vůbec někdo, že se k písňové formě skloní současná scéna nové improvizace? Její protagonisté, od Toshimaru Nakamury po Ivana Palackého, vytvářejí zvukové krajiny a  konstelace opatrným dotýkáním nástrojů, přístrojů a předmětů, jež většinou používají bez ohledu na jejich historii. Je to hudba navýsost abstraktní, někdy plná ticha a jindy v  neustávajících pásech prodlev. Na dnešní svět, kde všechno má svou funkci, reaguje nezaručeností.
To všechno zrovna nesvádí k tomu, aby takový typ tvorby kooptovala do nahrávek Madonna, nebo aspoň Timbaland a Danger Mouse. Tetuzi Akiyama sice hraje na kytaru samurajským mečem, ale pro zábavu a popkulturu není ani tak nic platný. Cosi se však stalo mezi samotnými improvizátory.
Když elektronik Christof Kurzmann hrál naživo svůj projekt Schnee, k překvapení mnohých zabloudil k Princeovu songu Sometimes It Snows In April; v hledišti avantgardního festivalu se přitom vztyčily dvě ženy a odzpívaly vokály. Jednou z nich byla Margaret Kammererová, která neopustila zvláštní střet dvou hudebních světů ani na pozdějším vlastním albu, kam požádala o remixy Freda Frithe či Philipa Jecka. Teď se s Kurzmannem potkala na vůbec první autorské písňové desce, jež vzešla ze scény elektroakustické improvizace. V kvartetu The Magic ID (Kouzelný průkaz totožnosti) s nimi hrají klarinetisté Kai Fagaschinski a Michael Thieke. Zvuk je tedy hodně specifický: paralely a dráždivě rozvírané odchylky dvou klarinetů, do toho oblaky šumu, praskotu, mikroloopů a recyklovaných zvuků z Kurzmannova laptopu. Kammererová hraje na kytaru klasické akordy a zpívá; občas to zní jako jakási komorní hudba, pak jako šanson, jindy jako by se v mixu či na pódiu sešly dvě skupiny. Pochopitelně hrozí, že mikrozvuky se změní jen v ornament a dobarvení „aranžmá“. Ale skladby, které jsou prý celé komponované před nahráním, drží dobře pohromadě – ochablými texty, kontrastními částmi, citacemi a odkazy. Mimochodem, první hlas, který na albu slyšíme, patří Assatě Shakurové, byvší člence Černých panterů a kmotře zabitého rapera Tupaca: „Zradíme-li své živé dějiny, zrazujeme sebe. Bojuj za svobodu!“ Zní mi to jako apel na uměleckou neústupnost – přestože Kurzmann občas projevuje levicové názory a natočil album reflektující New York po pádu Dvojčat.
Kdo dnes zachází s muzikou, ten – ať je jeho poetika sebeodtažitější – těžko může ignorovat obrovský svět písní, které za poslední století proměnily svět. Kurzmann, Fagaschinski, Kammererová a ostatní z The Magic ID jsou v tomto směru upřímní. Jako by tímhle přelomovým albem vlastním jazykem řekli: „Nejsme z izolovaného světa. Písně pro nás mohou být jak téma, tak prostředek.“ Svět písní je díky tomu bohatší o něco, co jsme zatím neslyšeli.

by pavel klusák (czech republic, september 2008)