Musik - Ein Portrait in Sehnsucht

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burkhard stangl & kai fagaschinski
m u s i k  -  e i n  p o r t r ä t  i n  s e h n s u c h t
erstwhile 057
(release date: 13/10/2009)

kai fagaschinski - clarinet, piano (on 3), acoustic guitar (on 6)
burkhard stangl - guitars, electronic devices, piano (on 3), vibraphone (on 7)

1. insight and longing  3'25
2. illusionen  7'36
3. last night i had visions  13'09
4. sexy m.f.  2'18
5. time (and again)  11'40
6. ausflug  2'41
7. weißt du noch unser lied?  6'11

all compositions by fagaschinski/stangl, akm 2007/08
recorded at amann studios, vienna, may 31st and august 23rd, 2007 by christoph amann
mixed and mastered at amann studios, vienna, november 2008 by christoph amann with kai fagaschinski and burkhard stangl
produced by jon abbey
field recordings by klaus filip (birds on 6/7), dieb13 (storms on 2) and burkhard stangl (morning silence on 6/7)
re-recording and musical car driving on 6 by bernhard gál
photos by angélica castelló (burkhard), michael thieke (kai), arthur grimm (alexandra) and kai fagaschinski (landscapes san fransisco and brandenburg)
cover art by marion gerth
thanks to alexandra (1942 - 1969) and her album „sehnsucht – ein porträt in musik“ and to klaus, dieter, angélica, bernhard, christof, michaela, christoph and marion.


downbeat The compositions of Austrian guitarist Burkhard Stangl, a former member of Polwechsel, and German clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski arrive at a stunning nexus of pretty lyricism and pure abstraction on Musik: Ein Porträt In Sehnsucht (Erstwhile 57: 46:57) ****. They complement their main instruments with piano, vibraphone and evocative environmental recordings, but even at its most minimal and gesture-based the duo manage to spin melody from long tones, variegated drones, various extended techniques and gorgeously abstruse harmony.
by peter margasak (u.s.a., may 2010)

paris transatlantic The title of this magnificent album, which could be the most accessible title released to date on Jon Abbey's Erstwhile imprint (excluding the two ErstPop outings, of which more below), is a reference to an album entitled Sehnsucht – Ein Porträt in Musik by Alexandra, née Doris Treitz, a German popular singer in the 1960s who died in an unfortunate car accident aged just 27. Not an album I'm familiar with, I'm afraid, but one I'm rather tempted to seek out, as guitarist / pianist / percussionist Stangl and clarinettist Fagaschinski are fond of slipping sly references to pop culture into their work: Kai's email address puns on Kylie Minogue, and one of the tracks on this album is a hilarious double homage to Prince and Morton Feldman (!), entitled, yes, "Sexy M.F."
Jon Abbey has confirmed that one of the reasons for not releasing this on his ErstPop sublabel, where it would have joined two other releases by Neuschnee (Stangl and Christof Kurzmann) and The Magic I.D., was the music's lack of lyrics, but as we've seen above with Black To Comm, that doesn't necessarily rule out these delicious pieces as Lieder ohne Worte. The ear for pitch and feel for harmonic progression – and stasis – is exquisite, and one could easily imagine one of Kurzmann's wistful vocals floating into earshot. But no; instead the real world makes a number of guest appearances, in the form of field recordings courtesy Klaus Filip, dieb13 and Bernhard Gal. Sehnsucht is hard to translate into English: "longing" and "yearning" are OK, but the Portuguese saudade comes closest, which A.F. Bell defined rather nicely as "a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist ... a turning towards the past or towards the future." This album is precisely that, the thing that "does not and probably cannot exist" being the EAI pop song (though I argued elsewhere that The Magic I.D. came close), and its search for musical beauty that is both rooted in the past but aimed resolutely towards the future is wonderful to experience.

by dan warburton (france, december 2009)

dusted magazine The German word “sehnsucht,” which has no direct English translation, represents a deep longing in which the desire is sweeter than its consummation could ever be. By choosing to represent it with music, Burkhard Stangl (guitars, electronics, piano, vibraphone) and Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet, piano, guitar) bypass the inadequacies of language, but also tread on thin ice. After all, one man’s ineffable beauty is another’s mawkish corn. Approach it too directly and you end up with a bumper sticker statement, too indirectly and you lose the point altogether.
Stangl and Fagaschinski haven’t recorded previously as a duo, but their shared history reaches back to 2002, when the latter participated in the former’s not-terribly-operatic opera “Venusmond.” Between them they’ve practiced in the realms of popular, classical, electronic, jazz and improvised music; with so many options at their command, the task at hand was not just choosing what to play, but how to narrow things down.
They recorded the music quickly, over two days in May and August 2007, and then let it sit for over a year before assembling it in late 2008. The result feels carefully constructed, with every note in place and the timing of every gesture considered; this music may be about sentiment, but it’s the result of rigorous calculation. Sounds cold-blooded, but it works. The two men have distilled the music to the point where you don’t worry about what to call it — it simply is. Each folk-like melodic progression, minimalist-informed sustained tone, or introduced disruption occurs exactly where and when it should to best realize the representation of some facet of that elusive state.
But they don’t get too precious about it. Sure, there are moments on “Time (and Again)” and “Last Night I Had Visions” that are jewel-like in their loveliness, but there’s also “Ausflug,” which pairs recordings of car sounds with a distant squall of distorted guitar. At first it seems out of place, but how many internal monologues of longing, not to mention filmic representations of them, have played out behind the wheel? Apparently "sehnsucht" has room for heading out on the highway and looking for adventure as well as quietly contemplating the birds in the forest.

by bill meyer (u.s.a., january 2010)

the watchful ear I must admit to being very unsure about this record before I listened to it. Musik – Ein portrait in Sehnsucht is a recent release on Erstwhile by Burkhard Stangl and Kai Fagaschinski. The reason for my uncertainty is based upon recent Erstwhile CDs that these two have appeared on separately, both of which focussed on the combination of improvised, abstract forms with pop music, In Fagaschinski’s case the Magic I.D release, and Stangl the live Schnee disc. The recent NeuSchnee album from 2009 is actually the first Erstwhile release I have not even bothered to purchase in ten years, simply because, having read descriptions of it I have a good idea it won’t be one I would enjoy. I feared the same might be the case for this Fagaschinski/Stangl release, but reading up on it it did not seem to contain singing and included a number of field recordings, so I picked up a copy.
I am glad I did too. On the whole this is a very satisfying, often exceedingly beautiful and occasionally quite surprising set of seven pieces.The opening three and a half minute long Insight and Longing is a slow, vaguely melodic and extremely simple piece of mostly sustained high clarinet notes and strummed guitar, very subtle, beautifully controlled (the clarinet in particular here) and extremely well recorded. We never quite get a tune, but as Kai has been prone to doing throughout his career, things teeter on the edge, creating an uncertainty to the music that builds an odd tension. The next track, Illusionen takes things a little further, Stangl more active here, again skirting around the perimeter of melody, creating a kind of presumably partly improvised easy listening but with a slightly disconcerting edge. If things stayed like this throughout the album then I don’t think I would enjoy the album a great deal, but they don’t. Midway through this second, seven minute piece as Fagaschinski’s playing shifts into noteless hisses and flutters a deep rumbling recording of thunderstorms appears. This new element completely alters the music for me. The addition of this non-acoustic, non-instrumental layer suddenly presents the music as a more considered, clearly composed and structured composition. If before the musicians sounded like they were close to vague noodling to see where things went, then this feeling is shattered by the sudden shift. The thunderstorm eventually breaks into a loud crash, which ends the second piece and leads directly into a low, brooding feedback hum to begin the third.
The bridge between tracks is very nice indeed, a clever, but also quite natural sounding device that shifts the music again, away from any melody into a tense, atmospheric warmth. The track retains a low, seismic rumble from Stangl throughout the first half of this thirteen minute piece, and Fagaschinski threads small tones around and through it until after a while everything breaks up and a dampened piano appears, with sparsely picked out notes gently expanding into a little more complex structure towards the end of the track. I’m not sure which of the musicians plays it, as both are credited with piano on the sleeve, or if this development occurred in real time or not. I suspect maybe not, and that this section was carefully added as a neat counterpoint to the gentle drones that started the track, but I cannot be sure. Certainly this is beautiful, on the surface very simple but deceptively and subtly complex music.
The brief two minute fourth track is clearly a tip of the hat to Feldman, a gently rocking, almost metronomic precision undercuts some beautiful acoustic playing that closely resembles the great composer’s later works for piano and strings. That the track is also quite brilliantly titled Sexy M.F is a wonderfully witty touch. The track only last that couple of minutes though, which is a shame as I could have listened for a lot longer. Time (and Again) follows and we return to the themes of the first two pieces, loosely picked guitar parts backed by swooning clarinet lines, all very slow and seemingly going nowhere fast until again about halfway through the piece things change completely again and a vaguely percussive, buzzing, guitar-based secton appears. This part develops into short, gratingly abrasive passages for a minute or two before it all switches back to the way the track began, lulling clarinet and softly chiming guitar.
Just as the mood has slipped completely into this loose, wistful area of prettiness the track ends and the sixth piece, Ausflug starts up, quite literally, with the roar of a starting car and some kind of proggy metal guitar playing on the car stereo (apparently captured by Berhnard Gal according to the sleeve notes) with Stangl playing acoustically alongside in the studio. It is this sudden shift in texture and approach that makes the album so much more than just two talented guys playing a kind of easy listening improv together. As the car stereo cuts out we get the sound of birds twittering, with Fagaschinski playing alongside probably the nearest the album gets to a proper melody. Then it all changes again and swarms of incredibly well recorded vibraphone notes flow into the clarinet’s sustained notes. Fagaschinski’s tune is then picked up upon by Stangl and a brief shift into direct melody occurs and looking at the CD player I notice we somehow made it five minutes into the final track and the album is due to end any second. Again, the shift from the car, to the birds, to clarinet, vibes, guitar etc is seamless, extremely well composed. The real pleasure of this album is for me to be found in the way all of these sounds are effortlessly combined, often surprising but somehow also always sounding just right, really well chosen combinations.
Apart from being the kind of music that will sound great on balmy summers evenings due to its soft, gentle nature Musik – Ein Portat in Sehnsucht has a slightly unsettling, difficult edge to it throughout that keeps the listener on guard throughout. It is exceptionally well put together, a masterpiece in clever design and construction as much as it is about improvisation. It often veers towards areas I normally might not enjoy, but it does so in a way that is highly original and always inventive and engaging. It never strays far from being just damned beautiful as well, which is another plus point. What’s more nobody sings on it…;)
This one would have had a mention in my end of year round-up if I had listened to it in time. I consider myself surprised and impressed.

by richard pinnell (england, january 2010)

touching extremes Communication, confidence, intensity and reciprocity. These are the words that my imagination suggested while listening to this exquisitely unselfish, insightful offer by Stangl (guitars, electronics, piano, vibraphone) and Fagaschinski (clarinet, piano, acoustic guitar). It’s a work whose deceiving fragility reveals large doses of acuity, informed as it is by precise constructions, minimalist qualities and a surprising inclination to consider undeveloped snippets of melody as a means to achieve superior levels of concentration.
And, naturally, there’s the duo’s ability in undressing the components of a timbre, or exalting the radiant parallelism of two joint pitches. One of them may be buzzing, or percussive – say, the lightly hit strings in “Time (And Again)” – whereas the other collects upper partials, genuine notes and breath in a single stroke of spur-of-the-moment humanity; feebleness and certitude are gathered under a thirty-second umbrella of discerning serenity. A sympathetic alliance of accents and whispers, tones that you’re not going to easily find everywhere; caressing and stabbing at once, continuously morphing in front of our very ears, which welcome their shriveled grace as if silently smiling. Even when the harmonics sting and bite, or a rumbling cluster followed by a droning hum (“Last Night I Had Visions”) threatens the general coolness.
A modicum of field recordings is utilized to attribute a degree of concreteness to an otherwise rather pensive setting, all the more startling given the straightforwardness of the compositional procedures and the immediate recognition of the aural consequence. The succession of the closing pair of tracks – a nasty electric axe informing “Ausflug” before the stunning pastoral earnestness of “Weißt Du Noch Unser Lied” returns to warm the evening – is an adequate delineation of the emotional feelings, always suffused with rationality, stemming from this lovely album.

by massimo ricci (italy, december 2010)

the wire [double review with paul baran's panoptic cd] Following the passing of Derek Bailey, and the breakaway of Keith Rowe from AMM, the past half decade has seen immense tectonic plates shifting on planet Improv. The Reductionist school, spearheaded by trombonist Radu Malfatti, offered one way forward from the freenoise impasse. But Reductionism has an inbuilt logical conclusion that has already been achieved, several times over. And so, many practitioners of European free music are moving from the achieved frontiers to the barely mapped interior zone, searching for an accommodation with tonality, of measureable pulse, even of rhythm; of text based vocals (rather than improvised babble). The inevitable younger wave of musicians entering the fray has further relaxed the non-idiomatic reins - in other words, bypassing the dogmatic insistence on reinventing the wheel at every second, of evading the 'stasis' of reference to genre.
One name that keeps cropping up on this axis is Christoph Amann, who runs a Viennese studio where much of this music - these two CDs included - seems to get recorded. On Paul Baran's Panoptic, Amann is credited as one of three "Creative Engineers". On Stangl and reedist Fagaschinski's Musik - Ein Porträt in Sehnsucht (Music - A Portrait in Longing), he's the recordist and engineer. But it's clear Amann's space and presence is facilitating plenty of rich and engrossing music right now.
Burkhard Stangl is a regular partner of Christof Kurzmann: as well as the duo's recent Neuschnee (Erstwhile), he also played vibraphone (as Paul Kling) on The Year Of's Slow Days album. His duo with reedist Kai Fagaschinski is luminous and liminal; seven songs without words in which Stangl, on guitars, electronics, piano and vibes, generates a radiant frost at midnight. It would be wonderful if "Sexy MF" were indeed a cover of the Prince song, but if it is, then it bears as much relation to the original as, say, Fennesz's "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" to The Beach Boys song. "Weisst Du noch unser Lied?" is a ravishing coda, a gently respiring pastoral retreat whose organic flutter and repose recalls Van Morrison's epic "When Heart Is Open", from 1980's Common One, of the kind of cosmic lullabies that frequently punctuated 70s fusion LPs (particulary Marion Brown and Harold budd's "Bismillahi Rrahmani 'Rrahim").
by rob young (england, february 2010)

bad alchemy Sehnsucht sind die vielen heißen Tränen Und die Hoffnung, die im Herzen schwingt Sehnsucht liegt noch immer in den Tönen Abends, wenn das alte Lied erklingt Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-dei-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da. Ach, die alten Lieder. Fagaschinski, der 1968 noch gar nicht geboren war, hört sie offenbar im Herzen schwingen. Wer nicht? Mein Herz hatten vor Alexandra schon Die Bambis mit ‚Melancholie im September’ und Françoise Hardy mit ‚Frag den Abendwind’ im Griff. Ich weiß nicht, was dem 10-, 12-, 14-jährigen Fagaschinski das Gemüt zartbitter stimmte. In Kommando Raumschiff Zitrone hat er jedenfalls First Time I Ever Saw Your Face mitgeseufzt und mit Margareth Kammerer in The Magic I. D. die Till My Breath Gives Out-Songs mitgesungen mit seiner Klarinette, der man ansonsten bei Los Glissandos oder The International Nothing lauschen konnte. Stangl hat nach seinen Third Stream- und Jazz-Jahren mit Ton Art, F. Koglmann und M. Nagl sich etwa mit SSSD und Efzeg mehr und mehr einer ereignisarmen und besonders zarten Musik zugewandt. Ähnlich sublim wie er mit C. Kurzmann als Schnee seinen Gitarrenton fast in Weiß auflöste, tagträumt er hier am Fenster bei Regen oder im Morgengrauen mit den munter werdenden Spatzen. Die Klarinette klingt, als würde sie in ihrem Samtetui nur wehmütig davon träumen, von bebenden Lippen geblasen zu werden. Die Gitarre, elektronisch umwölkt, harft und plinkt dazu äolisch. Ein Gewitter kommt auf und zieht grollend wieder ab. Der ganze Raum dröhnt moll, die Zeit scheint stillzustehen, nur von einzelnen Zupfern und Klaviernoten angestoßen. Dann nehmen die kleinen Gitarrenpicker wieder zu, von dunkler Klarinette samtig oder fast tonlos behaucht. Dann steigen die beiden ins Auto und machen einen ‚Ausflug’, mit Gitarrenrock im Autoradio. Zuletzt, von Spatzen betschilpt, fragen sie, wie Kommissar Stoever seinen ‚Brocki’: ‚Kennst Du noch unser Lied?’ Und man sieht von Hinten, inmitten von Vibraphongetüpfel und zarter Gitarren-Klarinetten-Melancholie, zwei Gestalten mit Pudel- und Schiebermütze und ‚ganz leise’ erklingt ‚eine alte Melodie’. [BA 65 rbd]
by rigobert dittmann (germany, december 2009)

sound of music Kai Fagaschinski är klarinettist på Berlins överhettade improscen. Burkhard Stangl spelar gitarr och elektronik. De skapar en märklig musik, som sätter sig över också de överenskommelser som råder inom dagens impro och reduktion. Gestiken förändras, men inte så att de börjar spela gammal jazz. Nej, de går mycket längre och söker känslostämningar i den allra bredaste musiken. Albumet hänvisar öppet till schlagersångerskan Alexandra och hennes skiva ”Sehnsucht – ein Porträt in Musik”. Denna längtan, som fått ett porträtt i musik, kan ni lätt gå in på nätet för att lyssna på; med klar vemodig stämma skapar hon en allmänning av saknad. Detta är schlagerns värld. Fagaschinski och Stangl lyfter på stenarna och låter albumet bli till ett porträtt i längtan. Som om de skulle komma åt själva hjärtslagen och undvika de alltför vanliga gesterna i Alexandras egen sångkonst.
Upplägget är utformat i romantisk vibrerande blåtonad stil. Men märkligt nog lyckas de undvika alla ironier. De tar den gamla schlagermusikens känslor på största allvar. Styckena är signerade Fagaschinski och Stangl , men titlarna lånade från schlagerns värld, ”Insight and Longing”, ”Last night I Had Visions”, ”Weisst Du noch unser Lied” etc.
Fagaschinski och Stangl använder konsekvent musikaliska bitar kopplade till vemod och längtan. Där hörs havsbrus, klockklang och klarinetten är aldrig så ödslig som här. Stämningen är stilla och avvaktande som om det jämt var skymning. Det är suckar och drömmar. Men det märkliga är hur de två hanterar detta material. Ytterst allvarligt och med stor koncentration. De suger varje känsla ur sina låtar. De återskapar inte schlagerns gestik eller form; det är som om de med största vällust kalasade på dess innehåll och av bara farten har de skapat en sammanhållen dröjande skiva, där ett känsloinnehåll vrids och vänds för att betraktas ur alla möjliga synvinklar. Musiken är lågmält stämningsskapande men den är så fylld av egenheter och detaljer att det knappast går att slappna av. Däremot tvingades i alla fall jag att reflektera över dess innehåll. Och det är sällan.
Ett ovanligt vackert album, men där skönhet helt definierats om.

by thomas millroth (sweden, december 2009)

freistil Wir müssen es nicht zwangsläufig mit Scherzkeksen zu tun haben, wenn zwei Improvisateure ihr neues Album nackt und ergreifend „Musik“ nennen. Der Untertitel klärt nämlich darüber auf, dass dies als Hommage auf eine gewisse, von 1942-69 gelebt habende Alexandra und ihre Schlagerplatte „Sehnsucht – ein Porträt in Musik“ zu verstehen sei. Zum überwiegenden Teil ist „Musik“ Musik für eine andere, humanere Zeitrechnung; eine Musik der Entschleunigung, der Angemessenheit des Hörens. Sehnsucht verlangt schließlich nach einer Menge Zeit. De facto beträgt sie hier zwischen zwei und 13 Minuten; gefühlt erstreckt sie sich allerdings erheblich länger. Kai Fagaschinski abstrahiert die Klarinette bis zur Unkenntlichkeit – und bisweilen badet er genüsslich in der Ästhetik eines Jimmy Giuffre. Burkhard Stangl bringt jede Saite mit Akribie zum Klingen, ist sich aber auch für die Rhythmusgitarre nicht zu schade, siehe „Time (and Again)“. Gelegentlich wechselt er zum schwebenden Sound des Vibrafons oder haut zusammen mit seinem Partner hart ins Klavier, auf dass es zu langen Nachwehen kommt („Last Night I Had Visions“). Unmittelbar vorm wieder kontemplativen Finale riskiert Stangl auf Track #6 einen „Ausflug“ und kommt dabei unvermittelt am Hendrix-geschulten Stromruder zum Vorschein. Wir merken spätestens an dieser Stelle: Stangl & Fagaschinski haben es womöglich faustdick hinter den Ohren. Obwohl wir es nicht zwangsläufig ... siehe oben.
by andreas fellinger (austria, february 2010)

his voice Kytarista Burkhard Stangl a klarinetista Kai Fagaschinski boří hranice mezi popem, písničkami, přísnou kompozicí a volnou improvizací již delší dobu. Oba jsou dosti nekompromisní ve svém výrazivu, a tak není divu, že se s jejich tvorbou setkáme v katalozích prestižních labelů zaměřených na (neidiomatickou/volnou/novou) improvizaci, jako jsou Improvised Music from Japan, Erstwhile Records či Creative Sources. Spojitost s řadou ErstPop (pod křídly vizionářského vydavatelství Johna Abbeyho), na níž vyšla zatím dvě alba (shodou okolností se na jednom z nich podílel Stangl, na druhém Fagaschinski), najdeme nejen ve jménech protagonistů recenzované desky či v berlínské designérce Marion Gerth, která má na svědomí také obal obou erstpopových alb. Spojitost vnímám především v neukojitelné sentimentální touze po něčem zoufale unikajícím, co by se při troše nadsázky dalo přirovnat ke schizofrenní lásce ke zvuku (vidím/toužím versus slyším/tvořím), která už z principu věci nemůže být naplněna. Německé slovo Sehnsucht se do češtiny překládá tesknota, touha, a když si slovo rozložíme, tak první část (sehnen) obsahuje toužení, druhá pak vychází ze slovesa hledat, ale významů nese mnohem víc: vášeň, chtivost, náruživost, nemoc, mánie V titulu alba se tak odráží nejen název alba (Sehnsucht: Ein Porträt in Musik), ale i název skladby (Sehnsucht) populární zpěvačky, známé pod jménem Alexandra, jež tragicky zemřela ve svých sedmadvaceti letech při autonehodě. Zřejmě tímto směrem můžeme vést i interpretaci skladby Ausflug, která zvukem zaznamenává projížďku autem. Rozdíl oproti erstpopovým deskám však (ne)slyšíme v základní nepřítomnosti zpívaného/mluveného slova na aktuálním albu, které je (možná záměrně) nahrazeno užitými field recordings (kromě „výletu“ autem jsou to ještě ptáčci, bouře a ranní ticho!). Doporučuji vyzkoušet zadat funkci repeat all ideálně vpodvečer; mně se v jednu chvíli přihodilo, že jsem díky zaznamenané bouřce, kterou obstaral dieb13, nepostřehl, že venku začalo pršet. Dvojici ještě s finálním zvukem pomáhal Christoph Amann, v jehož vídeňském studiu bylo album i nahráno. Povětšinou jemné, pomalé, jednoduché a spíš níže položené tóny, zvuky a plochy jsou v některých momentech, jak jsme u tohoto druhu easy listeningu zvyklí, promyšleně obměněny za nemilosrdné zvuky bustrující kytary, klarinetový hukot či škrábání strun. Velmi precizně vybroušené písničky beze slov.
by petr vrba (czech republic, february 2010)

vital weekly Two veterans from the Viennese musiclife, that's Burkhard Stangl (guitars, electric devices, piano and vibraphone) and Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet, piano, acoustic guitar). They worked with almost everybody, and been to every place to play their fine brand of improvised music. They first met in 2002, and in 2007 they recorded two sessions at the Amman studios, which were mixed last year and then took another year to see the light. Of course it has been well worth to wait. Its quite an interesting record, because it has a great variety in approaches. It opens with a sparse duet of acoustic guitar and clarinet, but that's not the way the entire sounds like. 'Last Night I Had Visions' is a long piece that involves sine wave like sounds produced by e-bows and clarinet and almost sounds like an Alvin Lucier piece. 'Sexy M.F.' is then a short piece of highly improvised matter. In other pieces they sound folk again, such as in 'Weisst Du Noch Unser Lied?'. Sometimes there are bits of field recording, provided by friends such as Klaus Filip and Dieb 13. A highly personal record, very delicate in approach and just overall an excellent record.
by frans de waard (netherlands, december 2009)

revue & corrigee Burkhard Stangl a du style, un style, enfin quelque chose en propre qui imprégne tout ce qu' il touche. Praticant aussi bien, je le cite, " l improvisation non idiomatique " qu' une écriture proche de Feldman il insuffle à tout ce qu' il touche un quelque chose de singulier qui lui est propre. Il n' a jamais tourné le dos à l' acoustique sans néanmoins ce refuser l' apport d' une électronique plutôt analogique. Trés loin du clanisme il a tenu la guitare chez Olga Neuwirth Polwechsel, Magic ID (un combo de pop expérimentale) etc... Avec Christof Kurzman, Dieb 13 et Taku Sugimoto (leur duo de guitare acoustique est un chef d' oeuvre) il a participé à quelques uns des meilleurs disques de la décennie passé . BK a son phrasé, une empreinte hybridé d' aplat feldmanien, stridence rock et préparation électro-acoustiques qui en font un instrumentiste et un compositeur rare reconnaissable en 5 secondes sachant comme peu d' autres avec un rien créer un climax, un univers entier.
Kai Fagachinski est du méme bois préférant à la virtuosité quantifiable des notes, le grain et la maitrise trés difficile des sons tenus, des micro variations dynamiques nécéssitant une maitrise sans faille du souffle et des doighs.
Comme Stangl c' est un instrumentiste passionné par son outil, dénué d' académisme, explorant de surcroit en plus de la clarinette un compendium timbrale de haut vol . Combien de duo dans le duo possible en mariant les spectres du vibraphone et du piano, des deux guitares , d' un E-bow et des longues notes de clarinette sans compter les fields recordings ?
Le titre est un empreint en forme d' hommage à une chanteuse, Alexandra qui mourut brutalement en 1969 aprés un fulgurant succés. Une "Rock story" pour baby boomers ranimant les douleurs lointaines, l' imprégnation morose du fatum et de l' éphémère.
"Ein Portrat in sehnsucht" arpente en musique des terres intérieures prisent entre chien et loup, dérivant à travers les ruines de l' intime, de l' indice et de l' indicible . Une version douce et lente de la ritournelle d' Ayler passant d' un orage à un cluster à une vaste déflagration de sons concret et poumons éclatés. Une apnée statique poudroyantes de sons dérivant dans l' air métallique où flottent des bribes de piano, vibraphone, guitare, clarinette comme autant de traces fragiles et provisoires de la vie.
Le disque est superbement monté, construit, senti, joué, pensé par deux compagnons à l' unisson servi par l' écrin magique du studio de Christof Amman. Le jeu sur les harmoniques de la guitare de Burkhard Stangl, les petits résidus de gestes, de salive de Kai Fagaschinski restent longtemps dans l' oreille comme de doux et précieux souvenirs à serrer contre soi.
Une musique qui est bien plus qu' un simple petit plaisir, une urgence à vivre encore, encore un peu.

by boris wlassoff (france, march 2010)

falter Was für ein schöner Titel! Und wie passend: Wehmut, Melancholie, unendliches Verlangen – so ließe sich die Stimmung charakterisieren, die der Wiener Gitarrist Burkhard Stangl und der Berliner Klarinettist Kai Fagaschinski in sieben auskomponierten, unterschiedlichste Spieltechniken kombinierenden und mit Feldaufnahmen dezent angereicherten Nummern ganz kitschfrei heraufbeschwören. Schade fast, dass diese Sehnsucht gerade einmal 45 Minuten währt. Man kippt beim Hören so herrlich sanft aus der Zeit.
by carsten fastner (austria, april 2010)

ö1 - zeitton / orf (radio braodcast) [...] Burkhard Stangl mit seiner Gitarre bleibt nun in diesem virtuellen Reigen der Wahlverwandtschaften auf der Bühne, zu ihm gesellt sich Kai Fagaschinsky, Klarinette. Die Reise beginnt, wo man die beiden zu kennen wähnt, freie Improvisation erklingt, dann aber führt die Platte schrittweise woandershin, kleine hörspielartige field-recording-Collagen, angedeutet Songartiges, nonverbal natürlich, verführerisch süße Akkordfolgen.
Man findet sich in einem äußerst behutsamen Klangraum wieder, spärlich möbliert, abstrakte Bilder an den Wänden, kühl alles, doch, und das macht den Reiz dieses Stücks aus im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen, auf die das alles auch zutreffen würde, ist diese CD mit dem Titel "Musik - Ein Portrait in Sehnsucht" tatsächlich von einer lichtdurchfluteten Sehnsucht erfüllt. [...]

by christian scheib (austria, april 2010)

ihatemusic This, I imagine, is going to be on my top ten of the year. It captures an atmosphere that I haven't yet heard on an Erstwhile release. Melody and harmony are central focuses here, although it's not by any sense of the word traditional. Kai creates breathy hisses and airy, winding melodies shadowed in multiphonics and microtonal inflections. The harmonics sometimes act as the center focus, with the fundamental tone shifting and acting as the shadow to the high harmonic pushing its way out at the top. Burkhard's acoustic guitar shifts between angular, arpeggiated harmonics, beautiful but dissonant chordal accompaniment, to scrapes and scratches with the tones barely peeking their way out. The two shift to other instruments as well, such as piano, electronics, and vibraphone (used to wonderful effect on the final piece). Even in the more textural sections, tones are the central focus. The mood is by no means singular, with field recordings often surprising and acting as a bridge which is picked up upon musically in the next passage. These field recordings are never tacked on, and always seem essential to where the music goes. For example, the thunderous bridge between the end of the second piece brings us to the low throbbing tones of the beginning of the third; the car trip we take in the sixth piece ("Ausflug") brings us to the serene conclusion. Throughout, the line between composition and improvisation is blurred, especially in the aforementioned final piece, "Weißt Du noch unser Lied".
Morton Feldman's influence is clearly heard, especially on the aforementioned closer and the wonderful and hysterically titled "Sexy M.F.". While the latter track clearly uses some of Feldman's musical tricks, his mood is present throughout the disc. Usually when I see Feldman references, there just seems to be grab at the surface-level of his aesthetic; this succeeds in capturing something buried a bit deeper in his music, a crystalline musical calm that is present in even the dark, dissonant passages. Those who ever wondered about the Feldman influence in EAI should hear this disc, as it makes it particularly clear case for it.
All in all, one of the finest discs I've heard this year. Highly, highly recommended.

by snailed (u.s.a., september 2009)

aphidhair Days like these.
The head shop down the street has shirts that read, “Lake Superior Makes Me Wet”. Outside shitkicker trucks grind their transmissions into dust while blasting ‘Bodies hit the Floor’ or window-rattling hip hop. With small bibles tucked into breast pockets, old men suck on their teeth, and shake their canes at stray dogs. It begins to rain. A crash of piano like thunder, a clarinet that blurs and bounces from plaster walls. The smoke curls in the air.
I have four large windows that look onto Ashland’s Main Street, an honest to God Main Street: the small movie theater, the furniture store, the sticky menu café, the liquor store with advertisements of proud hunters knocking back Miller Lite while they bury their knees in the necks of glassy-eyed deer. Saturday afternoons I watch teenagers, flush in the coarse bash of youth and bored out of their skulls, circle the block like sharks, as if they stop moving for a second they’ll slowly suffocate and die. All greasy haired and chew spackled lapels as they bum cigarettes from each other and commiserate,
–Motherfuckers keep taking my shit. I fuckin’ say to ‘em, I say, ‘I’ll bring it when they bring it.’ Dumbass white trash motherfuckers.
I bought a pipe in a fit of nostalgia a few weeks back when I moved into town. I missed the smell of the smoke, the feeling of it nestled between my teeth when I was a child and would clandestinely steal a few drags on my Father’s pipe. Smoking it now seems like the right thing to do on this windy overcast day, thinking too much, listening to Burkhard Stangl and Kai Fagaschinski’s Musik-Ein Porträt in Sehnsucht. It’s an album that seems like a salve, an assuagement to the shock of being somewhere that’s concurrently so small and so goddamn large. There’s an ooze of history dripping from the cracks of every building here, as dense and heavy as the iron ore resting at the bottom of Lake Superior. You can see it woven into everyone‘s hair, filling every shot glass, in the bottom of every shoe. My nostalgia seems to be both bolstered and relieved, listening to the delicate piano cling clang like a 2 AM Tilbury at the end of “Last Night I had Visions.” I sit transfixed to the Feldman-esque lope of “Sexy M.F.” with Stangl’s guitar pinging off into space, accenting Fagaschinski’s tart breathy burrs. The meander of this music seems at home here. At home in the slow afternoons contemplating the ache that comes with the smell of shoe polish and wood smoke.
I had missed the deft sensitivity that marks Stangl and Fagaschinski’s playing when I had first listened to this (what, a year or two ago?); I hadn’t noticed at the time how each player only seems to fully come into focus through the aspect of the other. They both have some remarkable duos under the belt where this characteristic is apparent, but never to such an extent as found here– it’s as if each player was working as a filter or lens for the other. Returning to the album now, I notice it also has an incredible coherence. Each track is a subtle progression to the next. Even when the modes change– from slow drones to gentle vibraphone ruminations to gentle melodic guitar/clarinet cells, the thread is never lost. And the narrative is never severe. In fact it seems to bloom and envelope by virtue of its subtlety. These are seven tracks that seem to glide by on their own volition. But like so many good things. they are not afraid to be punctuated by the outside world, like in “Weißt Du noch unser Lied?” where motors rev, birds chirp, and 70s hard rock cassette deck soloing comes through an open car window while a guitar strums over it all.
Musik-Ein Porträt in Sehnsucht hadn’t made as much sense before living here. It wasn’t the right time or place. The seemingly effortless playing appeared too easy, too ambivalent to the world I chose to live in. Here in the wind, in a small town that seems adorned by it’s own memory it all makes a kind of sense, as if it urges you to let things happen by their own accord. As the afternoon turns to dusk, it becomes that much more powerful, stuck on repeat in my living room, pitching itself against boredom and sloth, hanging in the orange light of the dusk. In this time that seems to stretch and guide ones hand to ruminative bullshit, where one feels stuck in thinking of the here as though it were somewhere else, this album seems to embellish the play of time, and perform gentle accompaniment to the slow burn of days like these.

by tanner servoss (u.s.a., september 2011)