Though longtime associates in Vienna's world-class improv scene, Burkhard Stangl and Christof Kurzmann otherwise seem to come from different worlds. In ensemble and solo settings, Stangl has honed his trained guitar technique to accentuate the transparency of the instrument's tone. Kurzmann, a behind-the-scenes mainstay of Austrian experimental music, is advancing a voice of his own through the sample-processing potential of the g3 PowerBook. Despite their dissimilar backgrounds, Stangl and Kurzmann find common ground in the absolute freedom of electro-acoustic improvisation.
SCHNEE's four improvised soundscapes were inspired by the duo's favorite films and by Swiss author Robert Walser's poetic meditations on snow. Whereas Walser observes a "rather monotonous tune" in winter's white bounty, Stangl and Kurzmann perceive the prismatic splendor of tiny facets and compacted crystals. In "Nordrand," iceblink harmonics and sustained stringbends scatter like sunbeams in the pixel-fine powder of Kurzmann's driven drifts. Minute modulations and Stangl's brittle insinuations shade the sensory whiteout of "Sans Soleil," an exercise in exquisite understatement. "Passion" provokes stormier play, subjecting digital prattle and granular drone to the emotional brunt of Stangl's most tempestuous e-bow gestures and de-tuned chord jabs. SCHNEE concludes with a tempered blizzard of acoustic and digital exchange that epitomizes the duo's remarkable musical rapport.