Somnambule - Writing About Music

Kammerflimmer Kollektief ~ Hysteria

The delightfully named Kammerflimmer Kollektief began life as a pseudonym for Thomas Weber until he expaned the lineup to a sextet in 1999. In case you’re wondering the name translates roughly as the ‘The Shimmering Collective’, which sounds like the sort of phrase William Burroughs might have coined. Hysteria was first issued in 2001 on Payola and now finds a welcome rerelease on Queckselber, a Berlin-based label gradually accruing a small, but interesting roster of releases which also includes the likes of Oren Ambarchi and Paul Wirkus. This reissue is an anthology that gathers together a number of pieces not found on the Kollektief’s other three albums and adds a new track and a 13 minute ‘version’ not available on the original. Three of the tracks are Thomas Weber in solo mode, the rest are group efforts, though all eight compositions are attributed to him.

Hysteria begins with high-pitched noise like a neighbour drilling through a party wall with a very small drillbit. It’s promptly joined by the warm, descending tones of a double bass, further noise, miscellaneous scrabbling and shortlived pitter-patter percussion. Various layers fade in and out and the whole conveys an impression of gentle benevolence, like a more abstract, minimal Fourtet. Seen (Not Seen) sounds initially as though it was recorded on the windswept corner of a rusty docks; Heike Wendelin’s violin seesaws over Weber’s modulating harmonium while Michael Stroder’s busy drums begin at arm’s length beside Dietrich Foth’s purring sax solo, their intensity increases together then fades away. Aguri, Aguri builds from fragile beginnings to a noisy crescendo prodded and pushed all the way by viscerally satisfying baritone sax.

Weber’s solo tracks reveal an ear for sonic loveliness. The group tracks appear richer in detail, are at times closer to free jazz and are less obviously sculpted. Parts of Hysteria explore circumscribed spaces within which frenzied but finite movement takes place. The effect is a curious combination of busy movement and stillness. There’s a sense of self-cancelling motion, of action and reaction distilled into one form. It’s these tracks which perhaps best live up to the group’s name. Other pieces subtly adjust a small collage of elements. The final 13 minute track sustains its extended duration admirably: events swell and fade against a background of wavering tones like distant, massing stormclouds. This track combines the feeling of being open to chance and a studied emotional core which characterises the Kollektief’s music.
Colin Buttimer
September 2004
Published by the BBC