Anima-Sound - Im Lungau [Play Loud! Productions - 2020]
This is an interesting album, the first issuing of live recordings made in 1977 by the German Anima-Sound. I say interesting because it rewrites improv in my head (at least) and challenges my thoughts on improv as a genre. Non-idiomatic improvisation has come to suggest to me an academic, almost scientific disposition: the notion of a disciplined researcher committed to the pursuit of sound and technique, and nothing else. Anima-Sound, wife and husband duo Limpe and Paul Fuchs, have reminded me that this is not the only route into uncharted non-idiomatic territories.
Whilst I am not diminishing their technical credentials or intent in any way, the inlay notes indicate that the Fuchs family were what we might call hippies or freaks, playing an ’absolute free music’ often using home-made instruments crafted by themselves. Indeed, possibly the greatest thing about this entire release is the anecdote recounted in the booklet that the self-released Musik für Alle ‘developed during a 4,000 kilometer tour throughout Europe when the band and their two children hitched a handmade mobile home and stage to an old Hanomag tractor, bringing their anarchic, uncompromising improvisations to an impromptu public free of charge.’ The point I am making - perhaps just to myself - is that this ‘freak’ angle is a tributary that has historically flowed into improv as we know it, whether it has originated in counter-cultural views and lifestyles, bohemian attempts to be different, or just the over-ingestion of hallucinogenic substances… So, the nine pieces here, a mixture of duo and solo efforts, do have a different feel and sound to them, reminding us also that the non-idiomatic dreams of improv have often become codified into certain sounds and structures - that topic will require a separate essay however. Part of this difference undoubtedly lies in the instrumentation; a contemporary review of the festival where the recording was made mentioned ‘sand shovel, circular saw, hand-knitted crumhorn, sheet metal,’ which will naturally give a different sound to a more ‘jazz’ line-up. However, the duo also have a language of their own, harmonious and free from overt tension or conflict; there are moments of noise, not least the sometimes shrieking vocals of Limpe Fuchs, but no attempt to bludgeon or overwhelm the listener. The overall sound is perhaps pointillistic, with lots of often slight, small sounds unfurling in an unhurried manner; however, Im Lungau is not a quiet listen, rather the sounds are delivered across a wide dynamic range that precludes any simple textural stereotyping. Several of the pieces pit Limpe’s colourful, bubbling percussion against Paul’s rasping brass or reeds, whilst other tracks feature instruments that are not so easily determined, with the roles of each performer also indeterminable. At their best - ‘Duo 2,’ for example, with its wordless singing and slurred song form - the Fuchs do evoke a different sound world, far from empty virtuosity and simple physical athleticism.
Im Lungau is not an overly easy album to listen to, because it does indeed work outside recognised genres and traditions. Whilst I am a fan of Derek Bailey, for example, his playing remains genuinely alien to to me; Anima-Sound are perhaps not that idiosyncratic, but on these recordings they were certainly on their own path. The album is colourful and playful, without slipping into anything remotely whimsical, and exploratory without becoming hard-boiled. In short, it’s an album that will see me looking deeper into Anima-Sound’s discographyMartin P