Somnambule - Writing About Music

Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit ~ Secret Rhythms

Reviewer’s background: Loves Burnt Friedman’s work post Nonplace Urban Field, knows some Jaki Liebezeit, but no expert. A websearch on the latter turns up a lot more info than on the former, unsurprising perhaps given Liebezeit’s long career.

By the cover, this is Friedman’s album: he’s the label boss, the producer, the arranger; he’s (probably) the cartoonist, artworker, instigator. The cd cover is in the recent Friedman housestyle:

On the other hand, Jaki is clearly present in the rhythms which are straightforward but tricksy, deliberate but playful. And where the hell is Burnt? What’s he playing or programming once you tick off Jaki’s drums, Josef Suchy’s guitar and Morten Gronvad’s “1965 Deagan Aurora Vibraharp”? Okay, he’s there according to the instrumentation in the liner notes (including use of Monstertech Power Socket, Illogical Audio Sequencer and Pro Fools Software, to name only a few), but he seems more like a ghost in the musical machine. Morten Gronvad? hmmmm.

I’ve struggled with this album and I have to confess that if I weren’t such a Friedman fan I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I have. The struggle has been to stay engaged with music that is enjoyable, melodic but somehow anonymous. What fascinates about his other work is the playfulness, the incredibly musical detail, but also the fact that Friedman chooses to engage with/express his ideas in lounge music, fusion, cocktail jazz. He uses these as vehicles to question the validity of musical fashion, of what is taken seriously and why, to feint with the listener, shadow boxing to see whether we’ll duck out of the way. ‘Secret Rhythms’ posits a new addition to Friedman’s style gallery: electronic muzak with a strong rhythmic base and hints of dub...

A friend summed this album up very perceptively as a Burnt Friedman date where somebody told him to strip all the rhythmic detail out to see what remains. If you’re wondering what this cd actually sounds like, I can’t tell you, it’s like everything and nothing. Listen to the samples. I return to previous Friedman/Flanger albums again and again, each time discovering new details. ‘Secret Rhythms’ keeps me returning, this time trying to grasp hold of Friedman’s ghost as it dissolves in the air.

Colin Buttimer
May 2002
Published by the BBC