FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004


Giuseppe Colli


The Dawn of Dachsman ... Plus

It was Les Paul, the American guitarist/inventor, who said of a fellow musician: "He's very good, but can his mother tell it's him on the radio?" In the case of Hans Reichel the answer would be an unqualified "yes" - provided his music was played on the radio, that is; but this is a different story. (In a perfect world he'd be wealthy from recording the kind of sleeper hits everyone believes that only they have bought it.) That his music is easy to recognize has nothing to do with, say, his records being made by the use of carbon paper; in fact, almost everything has changed since Reichel first refused to take for granted what a guitar was supposed to look and sound like - there are several beautiful examples on FMP. But these are not "special effects" records: the technical possibilities given by Reichel the luthier to Reichel the musician have been so maturely explored that if one really listens to the best among his instant (right, just add water!) compositions one gets an aural picture of mind-boggling complexity. But what lingers in the mind is a certain kind of mysterious beauty of ` proportions - besides a streak of humour which would be a pity to miss, and a very expressive use of silence and rubato (before anybody can say "Monk" listen to the enigmatic quality of the last chord of the second version of "Watching the Shades").

So Reichel deals with wood - and the article he wrote for the January 89 issue of the American Guitar Player magazine is still the best explanation I know of the way his instruments work - but make no mistake: he's no Luddite/ technophobe; it's just that putting a floppy into the Vega 256 or using James Brown licks as raw material are not his way of doing things. Alas, the kind of virtuosity that's peculiar to him has been totally lost on the majority of the critics of the post-punk persuasion who, while rightly condemning the empty gymnastics of, say, hordes of metallurgists, seem to have become totally unresponsive to any kind of virtuosity, in any shape and form.

Now a perfect gift for those still wondering what the repeat button on their CD player is for, "The Dawn of Dachsman" came out in its vinyl form in 1987; it is re-released here together with some unreleased recordings made in the same year. Quite a few titles of the second batch are new versions of pieces done before - a welcome chance to hear Reichel elaborate on Reichel. The good points are too many to enumerate: the multi-timbral polyphony of "Waiting" and of "Smoking"; the expressive arpeggios of "Watching the Shades"; the nuances of "Forgotten" which will make one hold one's breath. Typical Reichel touches abound: the transparent sounds of "Thinking"; the contrast between the high melody and the movement in the bass register in "Return of the Knödler Show" -whistle it at your peril! - and the humour of "Unidentified Dancing Object", where an alien ship crashes a pygmy party (hey, the "Third Stone from the Sun" twenty years later!). A less frequent dimension of the solo mode Reichel is represented here by "An Old Friend Passes By": an astounding track, where we hear somebody (somebody good, that is) passionately wail in the garage, all cautions thrown in the winds; listen to the bluesy soul licks which crop up here and- there (Curtis Mayfield? Jimi Hendrix? Hans Reichel!) - and dig the three-foot whammy bar at the end.

Not content with having built several innovative instruments, Reichel has invented the daxophone, a whatchamacallit if there ever was one. The tracks included here are baby pictures when compared to a more refined work like "Shanghaied on Tor Road" (whose booklet will give the reader a cigar explanation of the way this "thing" works), but they are totally convincing. The original LP featured three daxophone pieces: the grunts and squeaks of the title-track; "Dachsman in Berlin", a fascinately grotesque anticipation of "Shanghaied..."; and the suitable-for-framing "Dachsman Meets the Blues" (now indicated as version 1), alone worth the price of admission: a track so opium-scented its consumption should be declared illegal (the resonance one hears are due to the stick part of the instrument being mounted on an acoustic guitar: simplicity itself). The unreleased tracks offer several highlights: the "jungle fanfare" of "Yo"; the operatic melismas which bring "Dachsman in Berlin (lI)" to its close; the percussive/vocal qualities of "The Dawn of Dachsman (Il)" (and what's that, a "Spoonful" quote or what?); the dynamic interaction between the melody and the "modulated white noise" on "Something East". So it's an embarrassment of riches we have here. Now, will somebody please get this man's music on the radio?

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