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


Steve Beresford


Just like fireworks and recording sound in grooves, it seems that the roots of the concertina are Chinese. The first "free reed" instrument in Europe was a Chinese sheng, inspiring a Mr. Charles Wheatstone (1802 - 1875) to invent the concertina. It's since partnered the violin very nicely in lots of Irish and English traditional musics, but this charming record reminds me more of African players like Noise Khanyile, who combines concertina and violin in the tradition of South African jive music.

"Buben", Mr. Reichel tells me, in a fax so literate that it puts these notes to shame, "is a quite 'out of fashion' word…Generally (the singular form) 'Bube' means 'young boy', or 'lad', as Charles Dickens would eventually say. It also means a mischievous guy, a rascal." I also like the word 'scallywag' - they still use it in Liverpool, but shortened to 'scally'. It's that quality - expressed through rhythmic games, energy, chutzpah, an interest in exploring new and sometimes insane - sound areas - that Mr. Khanyile has and which makes the CD you have in your hand so precious. (A devalued word, but I'm sticking to it). These scallywags have long since become thoughtful, smart, humorous gentlemen, but have lost none of their youthful energy.

Like the great Bo Diddley, Mr. Reichel started out on violin and switched to guitar. They both made guitars to their own, very special designs, incorporating the technical changes into their musical language. The invention of the daxophone signified a slight return to the earlier instrument, the dax being customarily bowed. Even more than the fiddle, it has a wonderful flexibility of pitch (Bo and Noise should try it) and, like his guitars, it's very good to look at.

People respond immediately to its human voice quality, and I hear a bit of singing by Mr. Reichel on the 1978 tracks that maybe prefigures the dax, uninvented at the time of the LP release of this recording (1978). The two lads have conspired again to bring you new duets, this time between daxophone and "two accordions - a very big one and a less big one".

In 1978, my chum Richard Leigh gave the LP what was for 'Musics' magazine a rave review - "It's record of people trying things, rather than just wearily doing things, for the millionth time".

Unlike most deep thinkers, Mr. Carl has consistently come up with fresh and spontaneous approaches. Given the impossibility of slithering through pitches in the manner of the violin, he has used the diatonic nature of his childhood instrument to wonderful effect. Another echoe of the African townships, where the major chord gets used so often and with such power. Louis Moholo - who was in a trio with Mr. Carl - told me that an accordion was a most highly-prized instrument. You probably already own some FMP records upon which Mr. Carl plays clarinet and/or saxophone. Those are his main instruments, but his squashbox playing is right up there with Bernard Wrigley 'The Bolton Bullfrog', as far as I'm concerned.

"Originally", Mr. Reichel writes, "the name of the LP was to be 'Bubenziehen' (something like 'pulling jacks'). In those days there was a sort of drunkard's 'game' named like this in one of Wuppertal's notorious night bars, and, as I heard (and slightly remember now), we obviously took part in that more than once. It goes like: the keeper mixes a pack of cards, and each of the customers in the round pulls one card. The one who uncovers the fist Jack is supposed to define the brand of liquor to be drunk by the whole crowd a bit later - the second one sets the amount (small, medium, big), and on and on…anyway, the one who finds himself having drawn the forth Jack has to pay for the whole shit. A great chance to get twenty different liquors in your stomach without paying a dime".

Not that that is compulsory for you, dear listener. This music can be enjoyed just as well whilst perhaps eating a good German cake, in honour of Mr. Carl's grandmother Tinka, who sensibly taught him to play the concertina.

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