Last month I wrote about a concert held in Amsterdam in which, inter alia, the guitarist Raphael Vanoli and the DJ and drummer Gerri Jäger performed in different capacities; but the two, along with Sandor Caron, who handles the sound equipment, also collaborate in the shape of the band Knalpot, which over the last five or so years has made a name for itself in Amsterdam and abroad with a music in which, in about equal proportions, rock and electronica flow together, sprinkled with some of the sound of avant-garde jazz: and in the band’s live performances – it is quite zealous about performing live – this sprinkling turns into a stream, as both musicians, each in his own way (Jäger nearly overwhelming his instruments, Vanoli almost standing guard over his), give themselves over fully to the spirit of improvisation, with results that move musique improvisée in some quite new directions.
This playlist gives some idea of what Knalpot is like in concert.
Of especial note is Knalpot’s avoidance of the computer as a possible choice of musical equipment and its embrace of an older generation of technology instead, which, although quite sophisticated technically, must often seem antiquated in the face of all that is possible to attain acoustically by means of computers; by the decision to employ this other kind of sound equipment, the band’s music-making, whether live or in the studio, becomes an exercise in handwork and thus nearly an instance of acoustic artisanship.
On the band’s website is a concise and also thought-provoking justification of this choice: “The band that listens to almost any kind of computer music one can imagine, refuses to use one itself. Not for political reasons nor out of fear of the machine but for the challenge and the pleasure of figuring out another way to create this carefully sculpted engineering aesthetic of the studio, the computer and the software by using tangible instruments and objects.”
Now, all of this technology (no less than the computers which may perhaps soon supplant it entirely, at least for a time) can prove recalcitrant and pose obstacles in the way of achieving particular musical results with it; yet what Vanoli, Jäger, and Caron’s music seems to embody, whether it’s the live or the studio variant thereof, is the inventiveness that such challenges can call forth if they are to be surmounted at all: and thus, in the music itself, when or insofar as it’s improvisational in character, one might perhaps even hear an acoustic semblance of that process – namely, the process in which expectations are frustrated by the tools meant to realize them and then fulfilled after all by the application of others that had not obviously been intended for such a purpose but which at least had the virtue of being available.
And “AV III.”
And here, by way of closing the circle, is a recording of the “Soloset” that Raphael Vanoli performed in the concert at the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, last December 14.