"The Philosophy of Improvisation": Regeanz - The Periodic Table
by Patrick Forrester
The Bunker New York tops an exceptional year with an album from long time collaborators Jonah Sharp and David Moufang, (Spacetime Continuum and Move D respectively). ‘The Periodic Table’ is the result of an improvised live set at The Bunker’s 10 year anniversary party in 2013, where the pair performed under their joint Reagenz project. Stretching over 2 hours, the recording has been edited down for their third album to a still lengthy 75 minutes. It’s progressive and complex, an all the more impressive considering their professed lack of practise as a duo. Despite their first work materialising over 20 years ago, David and Jonah hadn’t seen each other in 13 years before bumping into each other at an Autechre show in Japan in 2008, and they estimate to have only played 20 or 30 gigs in their long history.
Si, the first ‘track’ of the album sets the tone for The Periodic Table’s left-field, explorative stance, with the introduction sounding far more like the score of a Sci Fi movie than any recent Move D release. As it progresses, dancefloor elements are realised through soft kicks, claps and snares, offset by gorgeously woozy, reverbed synth work. The word track has been put in inverted commas above because one of the many avant-garde features of the album is its lack of song divisions. It’s more gratifying to see the whole album as one extended track or simply a musical journey – this after all was how the audience were offered it at inception. Flip over, and we find Tc’s acidic overtones inducing ambient euphoria, before progressing into 4x4 territory with remarkable pace. Rarely does music this deeply introspective and patient have potential for both club use and home listening, a false dichotomy bridged best with middling sections – Au & Ge. Here sounds become more forceful, with Sharp’s drum patterns taking centre stage. The fierce and moody basslines of Au, are complimented by industrial, bewildering sounds that point towards the more experimental work of techno producers like Basic Soul Unit. On Ge, you can clearly hear Juju and Jordash’s influence through distinctive, robotic chord progressions. The young pair have worked alongside Moufang on his Magic Mountain High project, creating their own exceptional live show, and the 4 have actually performed together as ‘The Mulholland Free Clinic’ at last year’s Unsound Festival in Krakow, so their influence is unsurprising. In the last 2 tracks Jazz elements are brought to the fore with more drifting synth lines that give the record its special ethereal quality.
Creating such richly atmospheric and textured music in the live environment is evidence of two veterans still firmly on point. That the equipment they use is unchanged from their formative period in the mid-1990’s must be accredited for some of this consistency. No laptop in sight – just Jonah skilfully working the Roland 909 & 606 around David’s beautiful output on the SH – 101 & JX – 3P synthesisers. You can sense their comfort and competence using their equipment in the music; sonic proof of their belief that live composition nullifies the oppressive elements of studio production. Improvising without a preconceived structure allows the pair to proceed with unshackled artistic expression and their music embodies a powerful sense of the moment captured. Perhaps this impulsiveness, enabled by their analogue hardware and spontaneous approach, is why the soundscape on display in The Periodic Table sounds so invitingly fresh and novel, despite the equipment having been around as long as the producers themselves. The album is a testament to Sharp and Moufang’s supreme skill and intuition and a mesmerising ode to the philosophy of improvisation.