Over the course of the last few decades, Ingar Zach has been an important force in contemporary and experimental music. Through his solo percussion music, his regular bands Dans les Arbres, Huntsville and MURAL, and countless other collaborations, he has redefined the role of percussion and expanded the possibilites of his instruments in a highly personal way. In his four solo percussion records, starting with Percussion Music released on SOFA in 2004, one can sense a clear material and formal development.
His new album floating layer cake can be seen as a culmination of his percussion practise, where this material has been put into compositional form, and performed by an ensemble of musicians. The result is a personal and remarkable sound world. floating layer cake consists of two pieces. The Lost Ones is a collaboration between Zach, Canadian string quartet Quatuor Bozzini, the poet and vocal performer Caroline Bergvall and guitarist Kim Myhr. This ensemble started with Myhr’s piece Pressing clouds, passing crowds, released on HUBRO in 2018, and it was while working with this project that Zach realised that the ensemble would be a good vehicle to expand his composition The Lost Ones, which originally was written for percussion and voice. Bergvall had been invited to write the text and place the voice section, and her contribution to the piece is brief, but devastatingly powerful, mirroring beautifully the punctuations and the almost merciless stasis of the instrumental parts.
The second part of the album, Let The Snare Speak, was originally commisioned by Australian percussion ensemble Speak Percussion, but it is on this record presented in a solo version. The piece is for three snares with vibrating speakers and pre-recorded electronics. Different sine tones are played through the speakers, which generate a flurry of distortions and harmonic filtering from the surface of the drum skin.
floating layer cake is both a culmination of years of exploring the possibilities of percussion instruments, at the same time it is a leap into something new; taking his own personal material into the world of ensemble composition, and expanding and broadening both the scope and impact of his music. Discover this remarkable gem of contemporary music, released on CD and DL with a beautiful cover image by Norwegian video artist Kjell Bjørgeengen.
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One way of making existing material new is by rearranging it. On floating layer cake Norwegian percussionist/composer Ingar Zach takes two of his compositions and reimagines them through creative reorchestration. The Lost Ones, originally written for Zach’s percussion and the text and voice of poet Caroline Bergvall, is here rearranged for an ensemble comprising the Canadian string quartet Quatuor Bozzini and guitarist Kim Myhr on acoustic 12-string and zither, as well as Zach and Bergvall. Rearranged this way, The Lost Ones is a work of timbral ambiguity, where it’s initially difficult to disentangle the instruments from the collective sound. The individual voices become more sharply defined as the piece continues: Bergvall’s voice enters for a brief passage; Myhr’s guitar and zither ornament the enveloping drone, as does Zach’s percussion; the quartet gradually adopts bowing patterns that divide the undifferentiated mass of sound into a regular rhythm, further emphasized by Myhr’s forceful strumming. Listening is like watching objects slowly emerge out of fog: first as a vague mass, then as discernible outlines, and finally as three-dimensional bodies projecting out against a grey curtain. The second and final piece on the album, Let the Snare Speak, was first written for percussion ensemble but here is performed by Zach alone. The work, for three snare drums, electronics and vibrating speakers, is a series of hums and flutters produced by a series of sine tones projected through the speakers and altered by their interaction with the drumheads.
Ingar Zach is een Noorse percussionist en de oprichter, samen met gitarist Ivar Grydeland, van het Sofa label dat zich concentreert op het promoten en uitbrengen van improvisatie en avant-garde muziek. Sinds eind de jaren negentig is Ingar actief in het folk circuit en in experimentele muziek. Doorheen de jaren is hij ook onversaagd op zoek naar nieuwe methodes voor het bespelen van zijn drumkit. Zo komt hij tot een hoogst persoonlijke stijl. Naast soloalbums speelt Zach in verschillende eigen bands als Dans Les Arbres, Huntsville en MURAL. Daarnaast zijn er nog de talloze samenwerkingsverbanden met andere artiesten. Ingar is als percussionist, maar ook als componist uitgegroeid tot een prominente figuur. Zijn nieuwe plaat bevat twee eigen composities. In het eerste luik, ‘The Lost Ones’ speelt Zach samen met het Canadese strijkkwartet Quator Bozzini, inclusief een bijdrage van een door dichteres en vocaliste Caroline Bergvall zelf geschreven tekst en gitarist Kim Myhr is ook van de partij. Het stuk was oorspronkelijk geschreven voor percussie en stem, doch een kennismaking met het kwartet in een ander project deed Ingar Zach besluiten de compositorische vorm uit te breiden. Het tweede deel, ‘Let The Snare Speak’ was geschreven in opdracht voor het Australische percussie ensemble Speak Percussion. Op deze floating layer cake presenteert Ingar het in een solo uitvoering. Drie kleine trommels, trillende luidsprekers en vooraf opgenomen elektronica zijn de ingrediënten voor dit stuk. Zach genereert een golf van vervormingen, ruis en effecten die uitmonden in een soort van drone muziek. Een in al zijn facetten opmerkelijke realisatie. Met floating layer cake gaat Ingar Zach alweer een stap verder in zijn excursie wat betreft percussie en hedendaagse muziek. Sterk aan te bevelen.
Full of exciting sonic revelations, the pair of lengthy compositions on Norwegian percussionist and composer Ingar Zach’s floating layer cake frequently pique delight, even when inducing soporific wooziness.
The phantasmagorical tapestry of “The Lost Ones,” a 2017 collaboration with Caroline Bergvall, Kim Myhr and the Quatuor Bozzini string quartet, floats in on a low frequency hum before an urgent tremolo violin pierces the drone. Zach is operating mainly in an environmental mode, managing atmosphere and setting the scene, but this brings with it some expressive duties too, as he sets about ringing cymbals and bells as if to clear the space of any bad energy, snare and vibrating speaker rattling along like a small engine.
The creeping tension of the work lends a sense of movement so directionless and gradual, it feels like the piece is moving backward at times, forcing the listener into themselves, somewhere between a state of trance and hypersensitivity, and when Caroline Bergvall begins to recite a text about departure and in a familiar second person, it lands like a sermon for all your former selves.
In the final movement, Kim Myhr plucks cleansing notes out of a zither, and the Quatuor Bozzini quartet starts careening deeper into the void, Zach’s bells, chimes, and stray percussion twinkling along like the clockwork mechanics of a music box. In the climax, Myhr trades his zither for a 12-string guitar and strums repeatedly on a chord as if progressively erasing the world around it with every swipe, before the strings disrupt the scene, signalling drama’s omnipresence shored up on an island of junk — a fleeting moment of clarity for a world in constant flux.
Originally commissioned by the Australian percussion ensemble Speak Percussion, “Let the Snare Speak” fixes three snare drums with vibrating speakers playing pre-recorded electronics. Operating at the edge of sound installation and modern composition, it is a piece that bares many hidden mysteries, the resonance coaxed from Zach’s instruments as sine tones expand and contract, at times resembling water rushing down a river or the muffled grinding of saws heard outside a woodmill.
We are told that Ingar Zach’s latest is significant for two reasons. After exploring a variety of percussion instruments and developing a unique personal style, floating layer cake is described in its notes as the “culmination of his percussion practice.” The album also marks a new beginning. For the first time, the 47-year-old Norwegian has applied this practice to a composition written for an ensemble.
It is not the first time he’s worked with others. Zach is a member of three bands: Dans les Arbres, Huntsville and MURAL. He’s also a frequent collaborator with other artists.
Just the same, floating layer cake is a new chapter. Its two pieces are heavier than the album’s title suggests.
The Lost Ones was originally written for percussion and voice. But after working with poet/vocalist Caroline Bergvall, guitarist Kim Myhr and the Quatuor Bozzini string quartet on Myhr’s pressing clouds passing crowds, Zach saw the potential for something on a larger scale.
The Canadian string quartet figures prominently in the piece. Myhr’s guitar plays off the strings beautifully, adding a gently decorative touch. Bergvall’s spoken-word section is brief, but makes an outsized contribution. Even as we focus on all of that though, Zach’s percussion is absorbing. The work is so involved that it’s difficult to imagine it on any other scale.
Let the Snare Speak is a more difficult listen. “The piece is for three snares with vibrating speakers and pre-recorded electronics,” according to the album’s notes. “Different sine tones are played through the speakers, which generate a flurry of distortions and harmonic filtering from the surface of the drum skin.”
Originally written for the Australian group Speak Percussion, this version is a solo performance by Zach. Given the nature of its composition, it is a less emotional work. It is nonetheless a pure expression of artistic experimentation; one deserving of an open-minded reception.
This is Ingar Zach ‘s floating layer cake. The disc consists of two lengthy tracks beginning with The Lost Ones, a collab with Canadian string quartet Quatuor Bozzini and others. Low frequency tones fall in the hollows and as slow booming percussion takes steps an alert violin leads to a tiny gaggle of chimes. Drone and drama as the strings twitch quickly, instantly. The tubular distortion and mirage-like chords are stretched to their ultimate lengths, fading away and making room for the bass boom of percussion and a chilling space that is saturated in a trance-inducing frequency, and the smoothly delivered voice/words of poet Caroline Bergvall. And with the random and flailing strum of Kim Myhr’s guitar that stage is set for conjuring lost souls. The harmonies come together in brief moments, otherwise are constantly at odds, varying in form and velocity, contorting like an fortuitous wind chill.
For Let the Snare Speak Zach originally invited the Australian percussion group, Speak Percussion to help raise eyebrows. I did review their direct collaboration last year, which was a very different animal. Here he goes it alone wielding snares and vibrating speakers. This opens the ears and consciousness with an awakening tone that becomes a bit difficult to listen to until the point unto which it becomes hypnotic. These sinewaves are sneaky, but you’d hardly know it until you mind is mush. This is most definitely post-Cage in style and substance, and deviates into the world of pure noise. The combination of rattling and drone make for a one-two punch, so much so that I had to step out of the room to actually understand the layers and separation that was occurring. After about eight or so minutes, though there are slight variables in terms of volume, a form/s start to emerge as if he’s sculpting the accumulated mass. The track crescendo is at peak volume and dappled layers begin to show themselves. Only in the final four minutes does Zach quicken to add a bell-like effect that begins to move this along. As the noisy haze dies out this cyclical pitter-patter chimes away as if to keep the listener alert until it also begins to slow. File under non easy listening.
Scheduled for release on March 29th, 2k19 via the Norwegian Sofa Music label is Ingar Zach’s new album named floating layer cake, presenting two new extended solo compositions derived from collaborations with Kim Myhr, Caroline Bergvall and the Canadian string quartet Quatuor Bozzini. Opening with The Lost Ones we see Ingar Zach entering a world of ever oscillating, scintillating Ambient with a harmonic, Contemporary Classical-infused touch, well score’esque, brooding and mystical qualities as well as some slightly tongue-in-cheek moments accompanied by Caroline Bergvall’s intense lyricism before resolving in a huge end of track climax whereas Let The Snare Speaks serves multiple layers of static, ever buzzing midrange drones alongside warm and comfy Ambient pad structures over the course of 20 minutes. Recommended for late night listening.