My first impression when listening to bassist Alexander Frangenheim’s music was that he actually used notes like a sculpture uses matter, whether wood or stone, because he not only shows the most incredible respect for the tones he produces, but then he bends and shapes them based on how they present themselves, based on their instrinsic value and color. It is only after listening to this album that I read that he actually is a sculpture as well as a classically trained double bass player.
In seventeen relatively short tracks, Frangenheim builds his aesthetic, mostly by bowing, making his bass sing and grunt and scream and shout and whisper, sometimes with sparse sounds, as on „The Plains“, or with unrelenting intensity, as on „Counter“, but as said, it is more a demonstration of the beauty of the sound material, their sensitivity to the touch, the physicality of the resonance and the vibration of the strings under the pressure of the bow, the deep tones arising from the wood, the power of hard plucking: it is all so physical and intimate at the same time. Don’t expect long epic developments, but listen to the struggle between man and instrument between material and shape, between the inside of the artist and the inside of the instrument.
This German free-jazz improvisator lavishly manages to crossbreed the forms of art he studied (…and arguably keeps on digging): born in Wuppertal, Alexander Frangenheim privately widened his knowledge of classical doublebass with Reinald Schwarz, soloist of Stuttgart Philarmonics, while studying sculpture at the academy, and he gradually extended his performing technique due to his passion for emperimental music, an hibridization which gave him the possibility to expand his activity over an incredible number of projects, works and performances. In this release, issued by the appreciated Creative Sources, Frangenheim’s aesthetics looks like clambering up on scales leaving traces of scratches, lacerations, breaches, gashes and cuts as well as of sort off doodles on stave almost acting as stiches on a bleeding body after having been ripped to shreds. Seventeen smal solo sketches recorded in August 2006 in Berlin and mastered by Gunnar Brandt-Sigurdsson which are not derivative at all, but including many little jems of tonal twisting and the listener is easily going to appreciate a lot moments such as Counter Furioso, Surface, Chant, Knife, Memory or the sinister swirling pulsations of the final Birds For Z whereas the instrument sounds like putting on facial expressions or alternatively fighting with its tormenting player. You could imagine this record as a sort of wrestling or better a fight to death between the soul of the instrument opposed to the sould of the musician. Bizarre supplies!
-Vito Camarretta (Chain DLK)
Dans la dernière fournée, un excellent solo de contrebasse d’Alex Frangenheim. The Knife Again. Un album plein de musiques, intimiste et profond à la contrebasse, digne de Barre et Ulli. Il nous joue l’instrument avec une veritablebitable variêté de registres.
-Jean-Michel van Schouwbourg
Double bassist and sculptor Frangenheim possesses an impressive curriculum, having worked with a large number of advocators of modern-day instrumental sapience (Cecil Taylor, Christian Weber and Walter & Sabrina come to mind). This CD from a couple of years ago is a valid assertion of his individual value, seventeen tracks – several of them quite short, nearly aphoristic – executed with inspired confidence financed by a manifest deftness. Many albums for solo bass have been published in the last decades; the instrument is a constant source of fantastic sounds if handled by the right species of modest virtuoso. Frangenheim surely belongs in the domain of the finest inventive instrumentalists I’ve heard of late. Concisely cryptic, and yet rich in improvisational visions and timbral variety, all we hear appears as a temporal arrangement of firm, almost calculated gestures, radical values intertwined within fascinating technical permutations. The entire palette is exploited with critical balance, nary an acoustic shade getting wasted. An educated awareness of the relationships between the bareness of empty space and the tones that are destined to inhabit it allows the music to breathe and expand, sober elegance easily meshed with the correct dosage of lawlessness. An excellent release from an artist whose work should be exposed to wider audiences.
-Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes)
Un des premiers témoignages parfaitement achevés de la musique improvisée et libre est le Journal Violone de Barre Phillips enregistré dans une église en 1968 (Music Man réédité par Futura sous le titre « Basse Barre » et Opus One comme Journal Violone). Barre avait acquis une véritable maturité quand nombre de ses collègues cherchaient encore leur identité (cfr Karyobin avec Bailey Parker Holland Stevens et Wheeler). Alexander Frangenheim est un des contrebassistes les plus talentueux qui prolongent cette direction initiée par Barre Phillips avec beaucoup de musicalité. 17 pièces improvisées avec une qualité sonore superlative et une émotion véritable. Son jeu sollicite les multiples possibilités expressives de l’archet sur les cordes, du frôlement léger à la pression maximale, générant ses harmoniques aiguës et mouvantes qu’il nuance avec beaucoup de sensibilité. En pizzicato, l’empreinte de chacun de ses doigts sur la touche un timbre et une densité distinctives, exprimant au mieux l’intention amoureuse qu’il insuffle aux vibrations de sa contrebasse. Un magnifique contrebassiste pour une musique superbe dont on ne dira pas qu’elle est solitaire car une présence est palpable : l’écoute, la rencontre d’auditeurs attentifs. Rare.
-Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg (Orynx-improv’andsounds)
The knife again“ is a compilation for solo bass improvisations. What took me by surprise was that the musical matter here is less sonorous and more linear, close to the thinking that anything what we play can have a structure to it and be less derivative. I got a feeling at first that Alexander made one of the albums that we can easily categorize as „classic“ free-improvised. But the material bears many surprises.
-Hubert Napiorski (Felthat Reviews)
I recently reviewed a record from Creative Sources by a trio consisting of Günter Christmann, Elke Schipper and this doublebassist, Alexander Frangenheim. The Knife Again, released roughly at the same time, features him in 17 short solo pieces. Peter Kowald is an obvious infulence. Nice playing, especially when he focuses on harmonics, very light bow strokes, and microtonal glissandi.
-François Couture (Monsieur Délire)
Enregistré en 2006, The Knife Again démontre l’intransigeance avec laquelle la pratique instrumentale d’Alexander Frangenheim ne se refuse rien. Frappes romantiques, archet tranchant ou enveloppant, pizzicatos découpant reliefs ou accaparant à force de graves… Souvent, la contrebasse est déformante et les gestes, plus encore, d’un leste valeureux.
–Guillaume Belhomme (Le Son du Grisli)