Oskar Aichinger - "To Touch a Distant Soul", Between The Lines

Oskar Aichinger's solo debut "Poemia" (Durian) has had an enormous effect on me when it was released back in 1997. The originality of his style and his approach to the piano was refreshing and really, very surprising. I didn't know new approaches were possible after I'd heard Christine Wodrascka's "Vertical" (FMP) for the first time that very same year. I think the phrase I'm searching for right now is subdued quirkiness. Oskar seems to have been brought up on a lot of standard classical music, which he freely allows to filter into his music. However, there's something more to his playing than just that. He also allows improvisation to wonder inside his compositions. He frees up his composition to a given individual (or set of particular individuals). Every sound is meticulously freed from its origin, allowing the sextet to explore a myriad of musical possibilities. Max Nagl is the first to break free from the sextet on "Siren Song", as his alto playing soars above the gentle playing of bassist Achim Tang and especially subtle offerings from percussionist Paul Skrepek Jr. The thing that gets me is although I'd heard this record a dozen times, there are always new avenues to walk down, new paths to discover. On its initial listen, it seems rather unsettling, but with each listening session, the listener is able to come away with a sense of order and purpose. "Phoenix" is strong on a subtle piano / percussion duo, where the hypnotism draws you in deeper and deeper. (The only shame is that it ends too early for the theme to be fully developed.) Martin Siewert is another exemplary player in this sextet. He shows off his multi-faceted face best on "Nucleus", where he touches on everything from blues to some free chaos. It has taken me some time to get used to Oskar's piano playing in a larger ensemble. I personally like it best on a piece such as "Initials to a Ballad", where he takes some time to explore prepared piano. "Per Sempre", on the other hand, features clusters of keys being hit in succession, while trumpeter Lorenz Raab dabbles in extra-terrestrial pyrotechnics. Overall, a great effort for a pianist who, I'm sure, will be exploring unexplored avenues of new music in the years to come.

Tom Sekowski

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