I am hoping it is not too presumptuous of me to suggest that the musical chemistry between Tim Story and Hans-Joachim Roedelius borders on legendary. Each of their collaborations comes to us with a new variation of brilliance, a new way of playing with or discovering sonic expression, a fresh redefinition of the borers of composition. On The Roedelius Cells, we have Story taking piano improvisations by Roedelius and re-imaging and re-configuring them into new shapes and thoughts. Treating pieces of these solos as “found sounds,” Story─who came across them some time after they were originally done─set about making his own music out of what had been Roedelius’ music. So here we get the flowing, almost romantic lyricism of the originals, paired with a funkier, more playful cut-and-paste approach as Story isolates a few seconds’ worth of notes and blends them back together. In some pieces the stitch-work is not all that obvious. You hear it as a slight stutter in “Cell One,” the briefest of pauses between phrasing─just enough to catch your ear. It hides again in “Cell Four.” A slight click seems to mark the juncture, but there is also a perceptible sudden stop, an eye-blink of silence, in this pastoral stroll before the main phrase repeats. It’s also hard to detect in the surprisingly fast and vibrant “Cell Seven.” This jubilant piece feels virtually untouched, but listening closely reveals the interplay between its various loops, and it’s spectacular. At its core, it has the heart of minimalism, but feels so much richer and less rigid. A heftier sense of being in Steve Reich territory comes through when Story brings his strong but short repeating elements more forcefully to the front. “Cell Three,” especially in its waning moments, carries this vibe quite clearly. In among all the piano sounds, Story also drops vocal tidbits and “accidental sounds.” In “Cell Three” we catch moments of studio conversation, from variations of someone saying “I can’t hear…” to Roedelius’ charming “Ooh la la!” The use of vocals is even more effective in “Cell Six,” where Story sprinkles them among piano passages that seem to only barely match, harmonically. It’s a challenging piece, perhaps the most so of all the works here, so adding one more unusual element into something that’s already daring you to keep up is a fantastic touch. (Story notes on his web site that this piece “contains well over 450 … separate audio ‘events’”…) The final track, “Cell Eight,” shows off small, curling burbles of a signature sound that instantly call to mind the duo’s earlier collaborations, such as Lunz and Inlandish. One choice I quite enjoyed is the change of tone on “Cell Five.” Although still rooted in piano sounds, Story draws the instrument’s voice out, stretching and folding it into synth-like shapes. Placed in the middle of the album, it arrives as an unexpected but immersive ambient-style break.
The Roedelius Cells manages to be intriguing, challenging, and charming, not just in turn, but in marvelously complex variations of all three. Roedelius’ playing is full of soul and softness, and Story keeps that in mind as he develops each piece. This is no simple pastiche or remix; this is the loving reassembly of inspiring music, designed to amplify that inspiration in a fresh and respectful language. Another completely engaging set of ideas from a duo with unmistakable chemistry,
Available from CD Baby.