D. JACKMAN – HERBSTSONNE
Unlike you’d expect from the title, Herbstsonne was released in May, 2019. This album did not reach me until recently, though the recommendation of Stephan Mathieu who tweeted a list of his favorite releases for 2019 and added: “if you only have time for one – get Jackman’s Herbstsonne ✺.”
And if a soundwizard like Stephan Mathieu says so, you can safely assume it’s and advice worth following.
As expected, Herbstsonne does not disappoint. It is a single 47-minute composition by David Jackman, one of the original members of the Scratch Orchestra founded by Cornelius Cardew. Jackman has released music as Organum ever since 1983. Compared to the Organum discography, releases under his own name are relatively scarce: Herbstsonne is the fifth solo album; its predecessor being Rabenfeld from 1999.
Herbstsonne (Autumn Sun) consists of a continuous tanpura drone, a natural ‘sleepy’ sound that contrasts immensely with the (somewhat unpredictable) bursts of a church bell, piano, and organ chords. These three sound sources are so meticulously combined that they seem to represent a new and previously unexisting instrument. An instrument of enormous proportions: I cannot remember ever hearing a more thunderous sound that at the same time sounds so clear and undistorted. It is an intimidating sound that makes you feel small and insignificant, especially the (five) times this chord returns at maximum volume.
Of course, this must be experienced on a decent sound system. Throw away your cheap earbuds.
The other (45) ‘bursts’ may be less loud but are no less impressive. Though it sounds like the same chord repeating, there’s still a suggestion of a melody hidden somewhere inside, a melody you won’t be able to grasp because it is stretched into infinity.
At random (?) moments in this composition, there are added recordings of church bells ringing. At times the tanpura sound fades away momentarily, only to return a few moments later to continue its contemplation. Herbstsonne won’t allow you to doze off but forces you to actively listen.
Maybe it’s because I found out about this album in Autumn, and not in May, but I can definitely associate this sound with the colors of autumn leaves, bright light and fresh cold air of Autumn.
D. JACKMAN – HERBSTSONNE (fragment)
WONDERING O. – FIRE UNDER THE ASHES
In a genre where many albums sound alike, you’ll immediately recognize an original sound source. In this case, the sound source is an Organola, an accordion-like instrument. I’m not sure what exactly is the difference with a ‘standard’ accordion, because a Google search delivers images of Organolas that simply look like an accordion. It’s one of the rare cases where Wikipedia does not provide an answer – so perhaps Mihkel Tomberg, who is the man behind Wondering O. can tell us more about the instrument.
The Organola does have the same beautiful, organic breathing sound an accordion has, and Tomberg uses it for maximum effect, mostly droning in the lower registers of the instrument. The sound of these tracks is not just the Organola: it is often combined with electronic treatments. It’s a great combination too, but for me, the strongest expression of the Organola lies in its original, natural sound.
The album “is dark and melancholic, it speaks about hunger” – as depicted in the cover image displaying a not-too-fresh slice of bread. The album title is taken from the novel by Estonian writer Mait Metsanurk, about famine in 1695 – 1697 in Estonia.
Fire Under The Ashes is available in digital format only (from Bandcamp and from the various digital platforms); at this moment there are no plans for a physical release.