The fourth album release in the “Secret Rhythms” series by Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit results from a ten-year collaborative project encompassing live performances and studio sessions. What began as a rehearsal for a concert delivered at Cologne Triennale 2000 turned into a long-term exploration of the laws governing rhythm. Therefore, this fourth CD is based, like its predecessors, on a variety of rhythms seldom heard elsewhere.
Extreme manipulation, percussive overdubs and Friedman’s sequence-like guitar and synthesizer (Korg MS20, in this case) provide accompaniment for music to which the notion of domination is foreign. The six hypnotic instrumentals are driven by Liebezeit’s cyclic drumming. In “Secret Rhythms 4”, the interplay of reduction and maximization is elevated to an aesthetic principle, the sound distributed dynamically over background and foreground. Fusing electronic and acoustic, improvisation and postproduction, Friedman & Liebezeit move further away from Anglo-American models. And although the duo’s preference for repetition is evidence of a refusal to flaunt virtuosity, the revived notion of Krautrock seems wholly inappropriate for Friedman & Liebezeit. Be it in concert or in the studio, the swing emerges naturally from the rhythmic pattern. That Mark Ernestus was invited to mix and co-produce the second track on the album is no coincidence: he played an important part in producing club tracks (e.g. Rhythm & Sound) unsurpassed in their bold minimalism and refined quality of sound.
Liebezeit: “Just one bass drum and two sticks – like in Turkish music, for example – are sufficient to create a great rhythm. The layering of tones, chords, intervals: that’s European thinking, structural musical engineering! It’s too much for me. I like clear structures, music you can look through, with space.” In the early 1990s, Liebezeit dispensed with his pedal-operated bass drums and hi-hats. After his ride cymbal met the same fate, he went on to develop a new style of drumming (repeating the feat he pulled off when a member of Can).
Liebezeit: “Taken by itself, drumming is a kind of yoga exercise. It’s also got something to do with meditation, although I don’t do things like that, except when I’m drumming. I have to concentrate. It’s like I’m balancing on a tightrope; I have to negotiate the groove, which is a very narrow precipice. One false move and I fall. If I muck around too much or violate my own philosophy when I’m playing, then I lose my calm, go off the road. It’s like speeding along a country road at 150 miles an hour: there’s no leeway for fancy stuff.”
Friedman: “No more than a few of these rhythms survived over the years, but the ones that did provided a core structure for various ongoing transmutations on each of the four albums and during live shows. Jaki sometimes joked about “secret” rhythms, because in fact the rhythms are obvious, the opposite of hidden! The fact is, they are simply seldom heard in our country, and in clubs especially you don’t hear them at all.”
While the three preceding albums were dominated by guest contributions, the new production is devoted almost exclusively to Liebezeit’s drum set and the Friedman-typical combination of keyboards and string instruments, all kinds of percussion and the computer. There are two appearances (tracks 1, 3) by Joseph Suchy, whose unmistakable guitar sound has left its mark on all the “Secret Rhythm” releases.
Rashad Becker has been responsible for mastering all Nonplace titles since the first production in 2000. For the first time, Friedman and Becker co-mixed one of the album titles, a spin-off from “Entsafter” (“Secret Rhythms 3”), a track whose groove was previously used in “Obscured by 5” and “The Librarian” (“Secret Rhythms 1 and 2”).
The story ends with two unworldly musicians who make music for music’s sake, while others, using the benefits of technology, have “moved on” and know what they want to sell with their music.
The album Friedman & Liebezeit “Secret Rhythms 4” (Nonplace) has been released April 15, 2011.