GABRIEL PAIUK/JASON KAHN - Breathings 

Reviews


This collaboration between pianist/composer Gabriel Paiuk and Jason Kahn further explores the sonic possibilities that can be found at the intersection of electronics and more acoustic-based/ derived sources, in this case the piano as both an instrument per se and a resonant body. It was recorded one afternoon at Gabriel Paiuk’s house in Buenos Aires on November 30, 2004.
Needless to say, this music is in the tradition of AMM as well as the multiple collaborations that have sprung over the years between such like-minded artists as John Tilbury, Keith Rowe or Marcus Schmickler. The music/ spiritual presence of Morton Feldman can also be felt throughout, through each of these wonderful “breathings”/interactions.
The first track begins with a faint throbbing sound. As it becomes more audible, one is struck by how it almost instantly splits into small oscillating entities. Then, a few piano chords are suddenly hit with an almost dramatic flair.
These statements soon alternate with some rather low-sounding rubbings that are being produced from within the instrument itself. More tiny (high-pitched) electronic buzzes can be heard. Not only are these used with great subtlety, but they are the perfect complement to the piano. They also take part in delineating this particular frame of resonance/ acoustics through which the various sounds are free to wander.
The rest of the album (9 tracks in total for a time heading just below 40 minutes) will thus feature a series of very subtle variations on the same material. They will vary from very dense, dark meanderings to rather sparse, almost peaceful explorations and will always manage to sound very fresh and inspired.
Again, the piano playing can either be very “pure” or displaying contrasting acoustic “registers” that may recall the sounds of a dulcimer or some intricately bent strings.
Actually, it is possible to consider this set of highly singular sound-gestures as pieces of architecture in motion unto which the listener can decide or not to project his/her emotions. The very conciseness of the music can even generate some very contradictory feelings, from track to track or from within one single track/breath.
Consequently, one can even appreciate this CD as a continuous flow of sound. Says Gabriel Paiuk: “I felt many times that the whole disc created a feeling of continuity in which each piece seemed to me like an extended ‘breathing’, each piece as one single breath. Even a feeling of something in which one experiences the music through breathing.”
It is in this understated quality that the music also finds its strength, engaging us to meditate/ breathe along with it. This is not necessarily demanding. Once you actually listen, the ride can can even be fun which is, course, far remote from the ideas that are commonly associated with improv/experimental music! Not only is this another opportunity to remodel our appreciation of sound and music as an emotional experience before all, this also contributes in shaping our senses and thoughts on anything being labelled “artistic”.
In any case, this has been a wonderful ride. If you think this may well fit your tastes, I encourage you to give it a try and breathe along with them! Great music, excellent recording.
>Francois Hubert, Foxy Digitalis, 9.2006



Jason Kahn is one of the few artists, whose press releases I actually read before enjoying their CDs. To the point, evocative and with a lot of interesting details on the background and history of the recording, they always set the perfect mood for the actual listening experience. For “Breathings”, however, the text is short, the tone sober and the information scant. We learn that the album was recorded in Buenos Aires two years ago at the home of Gabriel Paiuk, an improvisational artist from the border at which concrete electronic sounds and acoustic phenomena meet. The rest is left to the imagination of the observer.
Well, almost all of it. For Kahn does leave us with a quote by Paiuk as to the origin of the album’s title: “I felt many times that the whole disc created a feeling of continuity in which each piece seemed to me like an extended “breathing”, each piece as one single breath. Even a feeling of something in which one experiences the music through breathing.” And somehow, this does sum up nicely what the music sounds like. “Breathing” consists of nine compact, extremely focussed and highly individual scenes of at most six minutes’ lenght, separated by short moments of silence, but flowing in- and out of each other as thought they were interconnected acts of a single, larger entity. Each time the music exhales, a vivid aural scetch dies down, each time it inhales, it is reborn into a new and different existence, with a fresh persona which however still contains polaroid traces of its preceeding life within its neural circuit. There is a clear responsability assignment within the duo: Gabriel carefully feels his way forward from behind his piano, delivering atonal clusters, short expressionist sequences, single notes as well as plucking the strings directly with his bare hands (he then occasionally creates the impression of a handyman groping for screws inside a toolbox). There seems to have been no post-production when it comes to the sound of the piano, its well-doesed reverb stemming excluively from the use of the sustain pedal, which lends Paiuk’s playing a very organic and up-front touch. Jason, meanwhile, uses his PC to place these piano utterings in an environment and an open context: Ultra-high frequencies, roaring semblances, fluid drones, rippled pulsations and hissing, generator hums, muffled and distant drum ruffles make for an unfamilar, yet never intimidating ambiance of extremely precise accents. The main reason for this feeling of security is the fact that one keeps seeing the picture of two musicians interacting in the same room, exchanging information through looks and hormones, instead of data sent by email.
It would indeed be a waste of time trying to put the result in too many words. The power of this music lies exactly in what it avoids to express “expressis verbis”, not in what it actually says out loud. Filing it under electro-acoustic chamber-musical minimal-theatre would therefore not be entirely out of place. But merely calling it “Breathings” and leaving the rest to the imagination of the observer will do even better.
>Tobias Fischer, Tokafi, 10.2006



Although Argentine composer/improvisor Gabriel Paiuk generally works with electronics as well as conventional instruments, on Breathings he sticks to piano throughout. Jason Kahn provides the electronics. He's credited here with playing computer, and the hints of metallic percussion that are often perceptible in his material are absent. Kahn's music is one of loops and pulsations evolving gradually over a considerable span of time. Most of the tracks on Breathings, however, run for only four or so minutes. But nothing feels hurried or congested  the pace is leisurely and the music feels effortless. Kahn has a light touch, and his subtle electronic shadings foreground Paiuk's stark, fractured percussiveness, much of which involves using the piano's interior as a resonant chamber. Comparisons will inevitably be made between Breathings and recent piano/electronics sets by alva noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Marcus Schmickler and John Tilbury, but Paiuk and Kahn's improvisations are of a high order and the music they make is distinctive and compelling.
>Brian Marley, The Wire, 9.2006



Cut founder and renowned laptop/percussion improviser Jason Kahn here teams up with Buenos Aires-based composer and pianist Gabriel Paiuk for one of the best improv records I've listened to in a long time. It's almost hard to believe this was recorded in a single afternoon in Paiuk's house in November, 2004, given the intensity and the balance of its sounds. Kahn mostly works with high-end digital crackles, minimal feedback effects and subtle electronic drones, while Paiuk improvises at the piano, alternating between sparse notes and - my guess - chord plucking, scrapings and other instrument-played-as-an-object tecniques. What amazes is the perfect interaction between the two, and the stark beauty of these nine untitled fragments. Skillfully dosing pauses and constrained eruptions, but never really reaching full-on noise, Kahn and Paiuk create a work of apparent stasis where the underlying tension is at times almost unbearable, sensing it will never explode. "Breathings" has often reminded me of Rowe's and Tilbury's masterpiece "Duos for Doris" (especially its first minutes), which is also not that unsound given that Paiuk has played with the former. Improvised music at its best: both harsh and extremely refined, with an enviable taste for the choice and dosing of its sound events.
>Eugenio Maggi, Chain D.L.K, 9.2006



Registrato nello studio casalingo di Gabriel Paiuk, a Buenos Aires, il 30 Novembre del 2004, ' Breathings' segna l'incontro di due differenti ma poi non troppo lontane sensibilità, quella 'improvvisativa' del padrone di casa, musicista eclettico avvezzo tuttavia sia all'utilizzo di strumenti tradizionali che elettronici, per l'occasione al solo pianoforte preparato, e quella altrettanto sperimentale ma forse più minimale a cui dà vita Jason Kahn con il suo computer aggiungendo inoltre misuratissime percussioni metalliche. Nove le incisioni in scaletta, una album nel complesso assai coerente, che con grazia assomma tecniche laptop music, microsuoni e divagazioni digitali assieme a delicate elaborazioni da avanguardia neo-moderna. Ascolto non per tutti ma la cui magia è facilmente decifrabile anche da un pubblico di non addetti ai lavori. Splendidamente elegante anche l'artwork curato dallo stesso Jason Kahn.
>Aurelio Cianciotta, neural.it, 9.2006



Kahn's own elegant Cut label is one of the most quietly convincing imprints of its kind. The duo with pianist and composer Gabriel Paiuk sees Kahn scratching away quietly at the edges of your hearing, digital dust collecting around Paiuk's poised, dampened chords, stray notes and shy preparations like sediment gathering on riverbanks and in rock pools. It takes a minor leap in thinking, at first, to frame Paiuk's interjections as more than polite commentary, but closer listening reveals strength and patience in his playing: every note is carefully weighed and measured, but not at the expense of the natural tenor of each piece. Kahn's needling computer manipulations eat away at the body of the piano like glacial striation on surfaces of rocks, marking out patterns of weathering. Paiuk may well have the last and best word, though, when he observes "each piece seemed…like an extended ‘'breathing', each piece as one single breath."
>Jon Dale, Paris Transatlantic Weekly, 9.2006



Recorded in a single afternoon at Paiuk's house, "Breathings" is a negation of protection, in that it brings an impression of apprehensive immediacy which often borders on a feeling of "soft danger". Although Kahn is credited with "computer" only, I'd swear I hear his subtle cymbal caress in more than one section. This, in addition to the most intense, penetrating frequencies that a human ear can decode, flatter Paiuk's piano textures, which come under the guise of "regular" chords, percussive spirits and disassembled obstructions, revealing a conceptual affinity with a post-Feldman minimal aesthetic which is all the more fruitful when decorated by the atypical embellishments coming from Kahn's resourceful bag of laptop creativity. The nine tracks are all parts of a coherent design where ear stimulation is just one of the artistic factors, together with many different prototypes of meticulous application and sensitive intelligence. Thus, we're not really quivering from emotional intensity when approaching this music, yet witness a gradual shift of attention from the single detail to the complexity of the whole soundscape, and our sense of orientation benefits a lot from this.
>Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, 9.2006



This piano/computer duet will immediately evoke at least intimations of last year’s Tilbury/Schmickler disc, “Variety”, although the musical personalities of the current pair differ enough to make such comparisons beside the point. Paiuk’s piano is far more astringent than Tilbury’s for one thing, whether he’s worrying the strings inside the box or remains at the keyboard. He’s far less likely to meditate in a single, lush area. Kahn, too, is more an overtly equal partner here, engaging his companion in a direct though often subtle manner rather than delicately tinting the surroundings. His contributions are generally quiet enough to be read as background but I think that would be a mistake; it’s far more rewarding to listen to them as equals. That said, the structure in “Variety” was more radical; “Breathings” is much more a “traditional” improvised duo.
There are nine pieces spread over 40 minutes. The opening track does, admittedly, cast a glance or two Tilbury’s way, with soft chords threaded between shimmering sine-like tones. The second “breathing”, however, finds Paiuk amongst the strings, carefully but vigorously exciting them with Kahn providing suitably dark throbs from beneath. I found the tracks where Paiuk, at the keyboard, adopted a more atonal approach to be somewhat less successful though I had no such issue when matters got quite abstract inside the piano, as on the fourth track, an excellent post-AMM, bleak-space expansion. In fact, whereas the specifics of the Tilbury/Schmickler session don’t, in my opinion, apply, there’s more than a tinge of a Prevost-less AMM date (not “Doris”, necessarily, but not all that dissimilar). The final two pieces work especially well, the first mysterious and haunting collection of plucked strings, rattles and static while the last track presents a luscious contrasting of single, sharply hit, high piano notes and, among other things, a wonderful, sizzling electronic pitch that could easily hold attention its own. “Breathings” insinuates itself gradually on the listener, filling in several gaps on each re-listen. An effective, solid effort.
>Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen, 8.2006



Kahn, a known improviser of percussive sounds, computer and analogue synth, teams up with Gabriel Paiuk, of whom we recently reviewed his "Rex Extensa." Paiuk is a composer, improviser and pianist from Buenos Aires. 'Breathings' was recorded in Paiuk's house 'one afternoon', November 30, 2004. Over the course of about forty minutes, the breathings pass by. Like in- and exhaling, each sound seems a 'person' breathing. The sustained sounds from whatever source, the insect like chirping, the piano playing one note, or the sound of the inside of the piano. Indexed at various points, I think it's just one long piece. The 'one afternoon' suggest a certain laidback atmosphere during the recording, but perhaps its just an idea I have, but it seems to me that there is a tropical heat like laidback pattern in this recording. Acoustic and digital sounds float about, into the air, and fall on the ground again, with simple pace and grace. Very nice work.
>Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, 7.2006

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