ALEKS KOLKOWSKI violin, viola, Stroh violin
JON ROSE violin, tenor violin, Stroh "one-string fiddle", Violinofón
MATTHIAS BAUER double bass
1 - ZERO GRAD - 1:52
2 - FRIGID AIRE - 5:58
3 - RIGORMORPHOSO - 5:02
4 - FROZEN PP - 3:04
5 - FRIGORIFIC - 1:32
6 - SHIVER ME TIMBRES - 7:49
7 - SOSTENUTO IN FRIGIO - 4:55
8 - POLAR EAR - 16:01
9 - DAMN PITCH - 3:20
10 - FISCH FINGERLIED - 4:26
11 - KONSTANZE'S KÜHLSCHRANK - 2:42
Digital recording by Aleks Kolkowski & Jon Rose
Berlin - 2000 May 24
Total time 57:33
All previously unissued
THE KRYONICS were formed in Berlin (recently turned into a theme park for government bureaucrats and rich Bavarians). Their first appearances included one in the legendary Küche (where they played the closing down concert in May 2000). The group plays completely acoustic string improvisations, no amplification whatsoever (except for the physics of the instruments themselves). The result is an incredibly personal and intimate kind of music making - like a chemical reaction.
The name Kryonics comes from the process whereby dead people get their bodies deep frozen in the hope that, in 50 or 100 years time, the technology will exist that can bring them back to life - a notion that no one in the Kryonics has the slightest interest in carrying out! However the black humour and stupidity of such an approach to life and death does appeal to the members of the group who find that just going once through a life time to be more than enough.
The acoustic instrumentation of the group does however move into the more surreal areas as the line up of Violin, Viola, and Double Bass is often augmented with the Stroh Violin (a violin with a megaphone horn instead of the normal sound box), a Tenor Violin (sounding an octave lower than the normal violin), and the brain splitting sound of the ‘Japanese’ one-string fiddle (also armed with a megaphone horn). This gives the music a special overstrung tension, a dark unsettled feeling and a timbral quality that many composers would love to copyright (but they can't have it, so there).
Another aspect of this trio's music is the way in which they deal with the unfashionable notion of pitch. For many in the electronic porridge generation, pitch relationships are something they don't seem able to hear, let alone use. The Kryonics incorporate pitch as a fundamental part of the sonic picture, giving it as much weight as they do timbral and rhythmic elements. Also they are able to let the fingers do the talkin' giving rise to some quite beyond control, three part counterpoint - sort of late Beethoven string quartet Große Fuge on drugs, except there are only three and not four in the group. (Talking of composers, Frigorific on this CD sounds to me like budget Mahler, there also seems to be quite a few nods in the direction of the Second Viennese School of Punishment).
Otherwise we're talking about three very individual stylists here with a track record in improvised music stretching over the hills and far away, who are prepared to mix and trade it over any unpaid restaurant bill. The insurance policy on their fingers might have run out but I have it on good authority that the music on this CD was recorded in one session, roughly in the order you hear it and with two microphones - so I guess this is about as close as you're ever going to get to the real thing - so if you want to give 'em a gig, feel safe to do so and remember to keep that fridge door shut properly.
BORIS VON WEINGARTEN
(Rosenberg Museum, Slovakia - 2000)
A clarification of nationalities:
Aleks Kolkowski was born in Chiswick, London, where he lived until about five years ago, at which point he moved to Berlin. His parents came from Belarus and Spain (meeting at the Hammersmith Palais).
Jon Rose was also born in England where he spent the first half of his life. He now lives mostly in Amsterdam, and has also lived in or near Berlin and Sydney. He founded the Rosenberg Museum in the village of Violín in Slovakia where he hopes to retire.
Matthias Bauer grew up in the DDR, but slipped through to the West in 1980. He lived for some years in France and Italy before returning to live in east Berlin in 1991.
"String trios have a long and illustrious history in both jazz and classical music, but the Kryonics somehow manage to ditch nearly all of this unwieldy cultural baggage. In itself, quite an achievement. Although the music is freely improvised, it shows a keen awareness of structure. Each of the tracks has a well-defined character and sense of purpose. The musicians always play with rather than alongside or against each other - three individuals making a group sound. They pay a lot of attention to pitch and pitch relationships, and while there's less emphasis on extended techniques (string preparations and the like), timbre is put to extremely sophisticated use. In this regard they're aided by the eccentricities of some of their chosen instruments, made during the first half of the 20th century by the Stroh company. The Stroh violin is amplified by a horn arrangement similar to that of a gramophone. It produces a slightly dark, somewhat velvety bel canto sound, though it can be induced to rasp and shriek like an ordinary violin if one so desires. Sometimes that's exactly what Aleks Kolkowski desires, especially when Jon Rose is playing the strident Japanese 'one-string fiddle', also made by Stroh. Matthias Bauer sticks to a regular double bass, and his role in the music is to anchor the sound. He may be a little less flamboyant, but his playing is cliché-free and far from unadventurous.
Compared to the sometimes lugubrious classicisms of the Amsterdam String Trio, and the hidebound jazz comping of the String Trio of New York, the Kryonics are a breath of fresh air - lively, inventive, witty. This is a very satisfying album that whets your appetite for more."
BRIAN MARLEY - AVANT 2001
"Let's start by getting our bearings. This Bauer does not play trombone. For those of us familiar with Jon Rose, there is no clever text, high concept or radio-play involved. Next, the Kryonics do not much sound like the String Trio of New York, any edition. One reason is the instrumentation, all acoustic.
The opening track puts us in a maelstrom of fiddling, a brief two-minute hurricane. When we land, the violin melodically meanders, with little squigglings and percussive touches. On Rigormorphso, Kolkowski's Stroh violin sounds like a theremin, with his confrères pizzicato-popping him and sawing at his legs. Frozen PP could melt the damned stuff with its hurdygurdy-like ratchet sounds. Damn Pitch builds with arpeggios and concludes in a single surprising, yet perfect, stroke. No piece overstays its welcome. The closer is almost a summary of the type of tones and instrumental tonalities produced within one three-minute improv, and again, only to create music.
There is total intuitive communication throughout, and these three use none of the instruments merely for effect, but to serve their creative interplay. The notes tell who plays what and where, left or right, but I just listen to this without caring; this is a unit."
STEVEN H. KOENIG - JAZZ WEEKLY 2001
"It's tempting to see this trio as a further vehicle for Rose's single minded drive towards string market dominance. But this is very evenly-balanced collective music. The frosty group identity seems an entirely apt metaphor for the less desirable baggage of traditonal string music - frigid, lifeless, stiff, preserved in defiance of the laws of decline and decay, not something you would want to find in your fridge.
The judicious and shapely programming of tracks suggests a suite. Frigid Aire follows the opening obligatory blow-out ritual of Zero Grad and provides an overture: mix and match lyricism, spiky percussive textures, candid chamber antics, tempestuous densities.
Rose has spoken of his love of counterpoint as 'the one invention of western music which is absolutely incredible' and the 'fundamental business of improvisers too'. On Shiver Me Timbers the trio get down to business, firing off ideas at a breathless pace, not just into the air/ear, but as signals to each other - each player is also a conductor and transmitter in a continuous feedback cycle. The hit rate in this 8 minutes is frighteningly high, one count would put it at 19 distinct passages without any feeling of jump-cut clumsiness.
Sostenuto in Frigio opens tenderly. It could be a tribute to bassist Joëlle Léandre, moving to more abstract and delicate textures while maintaining a sombre mood. The trio's sounds cast large shadows onto the canvas of universal human themes with the epic Polar Ear. It's suggestive of adventure, struggle, wonderment and the ways things change when one eventually returns.
If there is a nominal star here, perhaps billing should go to Kolkowski's collection of strange prosthetic instruments which feature, possibly being tortured on Frozen PP and definitively on the closing tracks. John Stroh (1828-1914) amplified his string instruments with a horn, a curious, charming sound like something emitting from an old radio.
The temporal shift activated by these arcane and forgotten instruments is another destabilising element in this joyful, witty and cacophonous polyglot music. A fine sample of what free improvisation has to offer the next millennium."
JOHN KENNEDY - WELLINGTON DOMINION 2001
"Their music is alternately strident, stringent and, at times, even beautiful. Those used to Jon Rose's off-the-wall radio plays and surreal humour will find little of that here. This is hard-core string trio music, knocking on the academy's door but insisting on being accepted on its own terms. (I don't want to make this sound too po-faced, though.) The music here is all improvised and some of it is played on one-of-a-kind string instruments. I have to admit, it's difficult, at times, to tell what's playing here but considering the extended techniques used by these players, even the more 'traditional' violin sounds odd.
The music these three make is a comfortable fusion of 20th century stringmusic and free improvisation. There's a lot of scratchy interplay (check out the opening of Frozen PP), passages of nearly violent pizzicato yet it's alleviated by what (within the context of the music) are almost shocking passages of melody and order. The track Frigorific almost sounds like something that could have been composed by Alban Berg. The ending of Shiver Me Timbers is all ghostly harmonics and singing strings. "
ROBERT IANNAPOLLO - OPPROBRIUM 2001
"An acoustic string trio that performs improvised music with the fervour, brouhaha, and technical proficiency of this one is a rarity. The sounds constitute a unique collection of disparate elements, at their best coalescing in a finely tuned, radical vision that inspires and entertains, and at their worst (which is rare) following their tails with random abandon. In addition to the usual ( at least by standards of the avant-garde) tonal centres, the three coax a sort of slow industrial clicking noise that is as amusing as it is curious. Along the trail there are some lovely passages (hear, for example, the gorgeously melodic violin solo on Frigorific or the chamber-like intonations on Sostenuto in Frigio.) Ultimately, though, this recording is not about beauty or entertainment (though these are important factors), but about colours and sounds and shades and their relationships. The strings rarely raise the volume to anything beyond mezzoforte, instead opting for other ways to plead their case. 'Speak softly and carry a big stick' might be their motto, as the intensity, movements, and spiralling swirls are apparent even at modest volume. Jon Rose's wacky presence is felt, though tempered by his colleagues. (The liners clearly bear his mark.) The trio should satisfy cross-cultural aficionados looking for something different, and in this case the improvised strings mostly deliver with sounds that astound, or at least range the gamut of expression."
STEVEN LOEWY - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2002
"Rose is the best known player here and his performance lives up to expectations, bringing together virtuosity, sensitivity and humour. Kolkowski turns out to be the perfect mate, relaying ideas, transforming them, supplying fresh ones (his melancholically evanescent melody at the beginning of Frigid Aire is a highlight). With two violins siding him, Bauer's role becomes central and he handles it with grace. Frozen PP must be the strangest string trio ever, both violinists producing plaintive grainy sounds while Bauer strikes his bow across the strings with frenzy. While the shorter tracks explore specific settings, Polar Ear is an engaging display of dynamics and moods. THE KRYONICS should delight fans of Jon Rose, since they don't get to hear him in acoustic settings very often. Strongly recommended."
FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2001
"Jon Rose seems to thrive on the kind of eclecticism that leaves listeners guessing. On THE KRYONICS, he's joined by fellow eclectics Aleks Kolkowski and Matthias Bauer in a purely acoustic, studio-live string trio setting. While at times achieving dramatic chamber music textures, the group tends to gravitate toward more open, extended improvisation. When they play 'tight', the Kryonics combine the structural insights of early 20th century modern classical music with the textural innovations of the free jazz revolution. The music flows forward naturally and without artifice. When they play 'loose', the atmosphere is ironically a bit more self-conscious. One can almost hear each player straining to listen to the others, offering deliberate interplay while carefully respecting the shared open space. At all times, the trio cultivates unusual sounds using alternative techniques and an ear for controlled dissonance.
A lot of the welcome idiosyncrasy on THE KRYONICS comes from Kolkowski's collection of bizarre violin-like instruments. Between the odd instruments and the iconoclastic improvisation, THE KRYONICS certainly defies expectations. But that's been Jon Rose's trademark, ironically enough, borne out over many recent recordings. It would be a mistake to classify this trio date as anything but a collective improvisation, but the demented minds at work behind the microphones leave no doubt that it's also a collaboration of three distinct individual personalities."
NILS JACOBSON - ONE FINAL NOTE 2001
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