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Thursday, Sep 25 2008 | 14:16 Buy this now at GoodToGo (B2B)

When people talk about innovative music produced during Germany’s music-historically most exciting era, then three names almost always crop up: Kraftwerk, Neu, and Can. If it’s a question of deciding which drummer has remained most influential up to the present day, then Jaki Liebezeit is surely one of the most interesting candidates. Together with Burnt Friedman in the third, and most uncompromising, instalment of Secret Rhythms, Liebezeit continues to pursue a vision of new music.
If it is still possible to establish a link with Liebezeit’s past as a founding member of CAN (1968–78), then it lies in the spirit with which he seeks, then as now, new musical forms. The post-CAN Liebezeit not only created his own cycle-based drum system but also developed an innovative drumset that concentrates on the essentials and permits a mode of playing that was already theoretically honed to be physically implemented in optimum fashion.

“After recording some free-leaning jazz dates in mid-1960s Germany, he grew tired of the music’s lack of form and went on to join CAN, with whom he created some of the most forward-thinking rock music of the entire 1970s. (…) Liebezeit’s worldview hasn’t changed much in the ensuing years, if Secret Rhythms 2, a co-led collaboration with electronic artist Burnt Friedman, is any indication. For this sequel to 2002’s Secret Rhythms, also on Friedman’s Nonplace label, the principles have adopted more of a band-oriented methodology, and the results reflect the sound of an avant-jazz/rock group with electronic embellishments. (…) Yet there’s no mistaking who’s in charge of the show, as Friedman’s production shapes the tracks into a seamless flow of ideas, all propelled by the secret ingredient of Liebezeit’s unmistakable drumming.” (Mark Weddle,

Friedman and Liebezeit came together in Cologne in 2001, having recognized that they were on the same musical wavelength in their exploration of territory beyond the current style reproductions, that is to say: working remote from retro or recycling!

While the solo parts (vibraphone, guitar, and keyboard) set the tone of SR1, and SR2 was coloured by the singing of David Sylvian, the seven instrumental titles of SR3 dispense with soloist actions and dominant actors. All the voices and elements, which perform a circling movement forward like links in a chain, enjoy equal rights. Electronic and acoustic sound like they have always belonged together because the rhythmic rules acting as the core of the music are the right ones.

Friedman & Liebezeit share a preference for so-called Secret Rhythms, which means that the rhythms are not hidden but less common, often foreign to western culture. Jaki Liebezeit: “It possibly incorporated many elements of this earth without featuring any specific elements. The individual elements have been made abstract, no ethnic or national character remains, there’s nothing typical to Seville or Istanbul, but the properties held in common by all types of music have been abstracted and processed.”

Friedman’s amorphous sequences and placeless sound particles adhere to the same understanding of rhythm, allowing the two heterogeneous sound generators to perfectly intermesh and form a unit – both acoustically and electronically, in terms of improvisation and concept alike.

“With one of the most stunning backdrops of the festival, the trio played music that, in its programmatic and repetitive nature, bore some conceptual resemblance to pianist Nik Bärtsch’s Stoa (ECM, 2006). But whereas Bärtsch’s self-described ‘ritual groove music’ or ‘Zen funk’ is largely acoustic, Friedman is all about electronic tones and processed sound. Still, with Friedman creating visceral grooves on an unconventional drum kit and Chisholm adding his own form of expanded minimalism, the trio made music that was both engaging and trance-inducing. Friedman’s control of sound, melody and pulse made him a perfect act to close the theatre program. From delicate electronic blips to near-metal guitar tones, like Liebezeit he found ways to develop what was often a simple premise for as long as ten minutes in ways that were both hypnotic and demanding close attention. Chisholm, rather than being any kind of soloist, meshed both sonically and thematically with Friedman, the two often piggy-backing on each other’s tone to create a richer whole. There were no changes to speak of, yet there was always a gradual sense of unfolding that kept things interesting throughout.” (John Kelman,

Friedman & Liebezeit worked more as a team than ever before, meaning the album tracks testify less to post-processing and editing techniques than to the physicality and treatment of the instruments played, with two exceptions: tracks 4 (Die Ehrliche Haut) and 6 (Wirklich Version) first appeared on Secret Rhythms 2 and 1 respectively. With the originals re-edited on a dub plate and slowed down, the resulting versions are extremely true to life but much slower, with altered arrangements and new instrumental tracks. Burnt Friedman takes the credit for production, overdubs, and arranging the pieces on all three Secret Rhythms albums. Recorded in stages in the studio or rehearsal space over the course of months, the material finally emerges in the concentrated form of a 5–10 minute song, although terms like beginning or end have nothing to do with music of this kind.

“3 volumes on and whilst you can’t help but wonder how much further this duo can take their extremely palatable difficult music, part of you just doesn’t care, you want your artists to be twisting and contorting, to be placing seemingly insurmountable limitations on themselves and coming out the other side with music as jaw dropping and ass shaking as this.” (Cyclic Defrost/Bob Baker Fish)

The Guests

Hayden Chisholm has been an integral part of Friedman’s studio productions for the past 5 years. He made an important contribution to the last Flanger album in 2005, and most recently appeared as a guest on Burnt Friedman’s First Night Forever. He has meanwhile embarked on his own path as composer and director of The Embassadors, whose debut album Healing The Music was released by Nonplace in 2008. He is featured on all the tracks on Secret Rhythms 3, either with his typical, almost whispered, first-take melodies, or else wholly absorbed in the intricate web of sequences.

Following a concert they gave together, Tim Motzer joined Friedman and Liebezeit in the studio and crucially influenced 3 album titles. Motzer already appeared on the predecessor CD (Secret Rhythms 2, non19) and also provided guitar accompaniment to Friedman’s contributions to the Nine Horses (with David Sylvian and Steve Jansen, samadhisound). Originating from the Philadelphia Jazz scene, the guitarist’s activities include a creative partnership with Ursula Rucker and King Britt. It is Motzer’s acoustic guitar that links up with the 2005 vinyl EP (Out In The Sticks, non17), on which Motzer likewise played an important role.

In addition, Joseph Suchy again plays a major part as his extreme sounds, which seldom recall the guitar, move through the interspaces of the individual instruments, knowingly fusing the rough elements of the music with the fine details of the ambient textures within the music.


01. Morning Has Broken
02. Gegenwart
03. Trittbrettfahrer
04. Die Ehrliche Haut
05. Entsafter
06. Wirklich Version
07. Sandale plus hidden track

The album Burnt Friedman & Jaki LiebezeitSecret Rhythms 3” (Nonplace) is going to be released September 26, 2008.

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