allmusic guide review by Brian Olewnick in allmusic guide
One of the central aesthetics of the Erstwhile label is the counterpositioning of electronic and acoustic improvisers. Rarely has that been more starkly, and beautifully, achieved than on the opening and closing tracks of eh by guitarist Stangl and turntablist/electronicist Dieb13 (Dieter Kovacic). Stangl is one of a handful of contemporary free improv musicians who happily forays into tonal, even melodic spheres, conjuring up a reduced version of John Fahey, perhaps. On "eeeh", his delicate strummings operate in tandem with subtle electronic scurrying underneath as Dieb13 probes the pastoral veneer, seeking and eventually finding fissures through which to erupt. When, near the end of the piece, he bursts forth, it's as though a flood of long-pent natural phenomena have established an equilibrium; not a conquest, but a rapprochement. This and the final track serve as brackets for eight explorations into more overtly abstract and no less fascinating territory. In these pieces, determining which musician is responsible for what sounds is fruitless. There are fewer recognizable guitar notes here, Stangl presumably using other devices, and a seamless, rumbling unity is attained, sonically sometimes in the vicinity of Xenakis' electronic works but, and this is crucial, entirely improvised. Listeners who enjoy that composer's "Bohor" will get a similar kick out of "ehhh"'s harsh, metal-tearing roar. Throughout, Dieb13 displays an extraordinary imagination in his choices. Still, one gets the impression he's merely dipped into his sound repository, that there remains an ocean of them waiting their turn to be heard. When, after a pause, the final cut arrives, Stangl's soft, pure guitar is strolling hand in hand with the tiny pings and scratches of his partner, ambling into the ether. eh is a superb recording, demonstrating once again, as if it's still needed, the rich and limitless range of freely improvised music in the 21st century.
dmt review in dmt
BURKHARD STANGL/DIEB 13 - eh (Erstwhile 025) Burkhard plays guitars and electronic devices and you may recall him from his work with the mostly Austrian electro-acoustic all-star ensemble Polwechsel, as well as Efzeg and SSSD. Dieb 13 plays turntables and computer and has worked with other likely suspects Martin Siewert, Günter Müller and Werner Dafeldecker. The duo played at Tonic a few weeks back and provided that highly charged, yet refined Erstwhile style sonic manipulation that a handful of us serious listeners cherish. All ten titles are four letter variations on the two letters of the cd's title 'eh', like "eeeh" or "hehe". Starting with "eeeh", quietly strummed and drifting acoustic guitar is spiced with small particle fragments from samples or record static. Soon some more violent electronic sounds erupt, as the guitar continues to play subdued, folky, dream-like subtleties. A great deal of space is used, floating sounds drift in and out of range, the rumbling of fragile electric guitar-on-table tension glides over the near-silence. Like John Cage's new way of listening philosophy points out, Erstwhile recordings allow is to be patient and listen to ultra-subtle sounds in a new way. Earlier today, while doing my laundry, I sat listening to the washing machine and dryer do there spinning cycles and heard patterns of music in their combined sounds. Sometimes Dieb 13 selects snippets of scratchy old records to balance the technology of modern electronic sounds or samples. Everything here seems to move at a slow pace so we can listen to each sound as it appears - an occasional drone, hum, rubbed string, squeak, pluck, short unidentified sample, growl, all blending together to create a suspenseful sonic landscape. Nice to hear some acoustic sounds on an Erstwhile release, besides Ami Yoshida's voice, which doesn't sound that voice-like anyway. Your patience will be rewarded on this hour-plus journey of often subtle sonic manipulation and seasoning. The occasional explosion, like on "ehhh", are well placed as well. CD only release for $13.
eh by David Jones in bagatellen
There are moments in life when what was once familiar can appear startlingly strange. Perhaps it is the way the light falls on an ordinary object, casting its features in a dense curtain of shadow that obscures its ordinary dimensions and reveals an aspect utterly foreign to the eye. The same holds true for words: there are moments when a word, taken for granted after being written, spoken, or heard thousands of times in the course of a life can inexplicably look like an awkward assemblage of letters that have no internal logic, but are rather the bearers of a foreign dialect long buried by centuries of neglect. In my experience, these moments of discovery can be quite unsettling, as if the familiar ground under one’s feet has been rolled away, exposing a heretofore hidden terrain that was also always underfoot but never before examined or appreciated. Certainly, there is a loss of comfort that attends this fracturing of what was once familiar, but such experiences are also a window to a kind of beauty that has the ability to astonish.
This is the effect that this record has on me whenever I listen to it. Like the names of the ten track titles, each recombining two letters into patterns both recognizable and oddly disconcerting (some of them look less like expressions or proto-words than exhalations of breath that have never been codified into language), the music on this disc takes familiar elements and recasts them into forms that are all at once strange, haunting, and beautiful. The first track, ‘eeeh’, is an excellent illustration of the power of this music. Fragments of melodies that sound as if they must have come from some song we’ve heard before waft through the air, at times contrasting, at times merging with, the familiar rhythm and texture of the needle spinning on a turntable, or the submerged singing of a century-old recording projected through an old gramophone. One of the hidden gems of the Erstwhile catalog, ‘eh’ is an important musical document, combining and recombining old idioms into new patterns, new languages.