SEAMUS CATER | voice, concertina, rhodes and harmonica
KAI FAGASCHINSKI | clarinet
After six years of secluded work, Seamus Cater and Kai Fagaschinski present their debut album, Secrets.
Their collaboration represents a collective process where all music was composed together in the same room. No advance sketches were used, no strategies established, every piece began with a basic exploration, asked a different logic and required its own form. A kind of proposal and counter proposal method was used, with pieces evolving through hours but also sometimes years, of combining tones and refining sounds.
While it may be impossible to file the compositions under genre headings, sparseness and clarity are apparent throughout. The ingredients are simple, a careful assembly sets them in motion and bestows them with unexpected purpose. The subtle end of storytelling liaises with abstraction and the elegant yet precise articulations might propose a form of modern court music. Secrets reflects the individual paths of Cater and Fagaschinski, but could only have been built in the space between them.
Seamus Cater composed for jazz groups in the UK, and after relocating to Amsterdam transitioned through electronic and experimental composition towards writing and performing songs. Since taking up the 'duet concertina', a kind of early Victorian accordion, currently confined to folk music, he finds the instrument's limited capabilities worthy of exploring outside folklore. On Secrets, he compliments voice and concertina with re-tuned harmonica and Rhodes piano.
Kai Fagaschinski, a steady character of the Berlin Echtzeitmusik movement, stepped into song music earlier with The Magic I.D.. He is also one half of The International Nothing, a duo which blends two clarinets into psycho-acoustic sculptures. With a delicate and strict approach he explores the hidden nooks and crannies of his chosen instrument. Fagaschinski's clarinet serves as the luscious and undulating sonic foundation of Secrets.
All music composed between summer 2013 and summer 2016 by Kai Fagaschinski (AKM) and Seamus Cater (PRS). All lyrics by Seamus, except Blasphemy by Kai.
Recorded by Seamus between January 2016 and March 2017 at ausland, Berlin and Pest House, Amsterdam. Mixed by Kai and Seamus. Mastered by Werner Dafeldecker in May 2019. Vinyl Cut by Rashad Becker.
Polaroid by Seamus. Sleeve design by Mainly afternoon.
Thanks to Rashad Becker, Burkhard Beins, Andreas Busche, Nicholas Bussmann, Werner Dafeldecker, Sebastian Diaz Morales, Adam Etmanski, Eva-Fiore Kovacovsky, Koen Nutters, Nathalie Snel, Jens Strüver, Renata Sifrar, Michael Thieke and ausland. Special thanks for the kind support of ske/austro mechana.
No record labels were harmed in the publication of this LP. Released by Seamus Cater and Kai Fagaschinski (C) + (P) 2019
AS WE DESTROYED THE BAND
There was a slight inefficacy
from all the dancing but
damn we worked at it
the nights we spent
in mud and glass
bearing our breasts and chests
we had to remember
you couldn't imagine
as we destroyed the band
we did not understand
the barrel organ.
p-p-p-put the street lights out
dark it never is
pull out the plug
The only sacred thing to me is blasphemy
THE DOT BEFORE THE I
Open your bag
take out paper and pen
think a bit
try and hold a shape in your head
before putting pen to paper
put the paper on your knee
or a desk like surface
think a bit
then write whatever down as fast as you can.
You put the dot before the i
and when line to cross the t
is drawn across the space above the h
you know what to expect
a right hand acting like a left.
The above, a line through which
the ed crossed out of crossed
finished off scribbled out
a the in the place of an an
are the bones on which to hang a skin.
This combination of Seamus Cater’s voice, concertina, Rhodes and harmonica with Kai Fagaschinski’s clarinet was composed over several years, and took over a year to record. Yet it’s got such a consistency of musical purpose that it knits together beautifully as a single, near-contiguous work- 36 minutes of extremely long, solitary, drawn-out instrumental notes, commonly only one or two at a time, exploring the purity and tone of each in thoughtful detail.
It’s sombre and sorrowful, with the supreme expressive capabilities of the clarinet really brought to the fore, and with Cater’s gently husky voice quite masterfully understated. For the most part it’s supremely slow- one of those releases where you might count the beats not by the minute but by the hour.
It’s so loose and open that when a three-note bass pattern appears towards the end of “Blackout” it feels almost chaotic compared to what preceded it. “The Philosopher” almost approaches song-like territory, complete with melodic pattern and chord change, but then throws an abrasive spanner in the works around the 4:30 mark with a frankly bizarre discordant squealing that is the album’s closest flirtation with high drama.
“The Dot Before The I” is notable is something of an accessible interlude piece, with gentle Rhodes tapping and spoken word instructions that give a much lighter tone than the surrounding tracks, resulting in something that sounds almost like a parody of old children’s TV art programmes.
It feels quite theatrical at times, but as though intended to soundtrack a Beckett-like stageplay or arthouse film. As such you have to be suitably mentally positioned to listen to it, otherwise it is likely to hit you at the wrong angle. But if you’re already calm, introspective, and if your heart rate is low, try bathing yourself in this emotive and sonically luxuriant work.
CHAIN D.L.K., Stuart Bruce, 11/2019
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Available on twelve-inch 45rpm vinyl or as a download, Secrets is the debut album from the duo of Seamus Cater and Kai Fagaschinski, released after six years of secluded, painstaking work. Alongside Michael Thieke, Fagaschinski is half of the renowned clarinet duo The International Nothing, and he is also a member of the innovative clarinets-plus-vocals quartet The Magic I.D. As heard on the YouTube clip below, The International Nothing is featured on a previous Cater album, the song-based The Three Things You Can Hear (Nearly Not There Records, 2016), as were Konzert Minimal members, violist Johnny Chang, bassist Koen Nutters and percussionist Morten, J. Olsen, a hint of Cater's link to Wandelweiser, other hints being that Cater played concertina on the recording of Antoine Beuger's Ockeghem Octets (Another Timbre, 2017), and was a featured artist at Wandelweiser's annual Klangraum festival, in Dusseldorf, in July & August 2019.
Secrets comprises eight tracks ranging in length from one-and-a-half minutes to just over six. The Cater-Fagaschinski collaboration is a collective process where all the music is composed together in the same room; no advance sketches are used, no strategies established; every piece is the result of exploration, needing a different logic and requiring its own form; the pair employ a method of proposal and counter proposal, with pieces evolving over hours, weeks, months or years as the two combine tones and refine sounds. Fagaschinski plays clarinet throughout, providing a foundation to each track. In addition to voice and concertina, Cater adds Rhodes piano and re-tuned harmonica.
While the eight tracks hang together well as an album, they are not easily pigeonholed or labelled; they do contain enough telltale signs to be clearly attributable to Cater and Fagaschinski. Four of the eight feature Cater's vocals and are alternated with those which are solely instrumental. The ones with vocals are not all songs per se, having neither verses nor choruses, each line being sung once only. On "Blasphemy," employing long, sustained notes which reveal considerable vocal talent and skill, Cater takes over ninety seconds to sing the phrase, "the only sacred thing to me is blasphemy," beautifully accompanied by Fagaschinski's mellow clarinet. In contrast, "The Dot Before the I" is a wryly amusing spoken-word recitation which casts Cater in the role of children's television presenter, or maybe actual children's teacher. As with other vocal tracks, its instrumental passages are as good as some of the instrumental pieces. The instrumental tracks themselves exhibit a pattern that is so often a promising sign: the longer they last, the better they sound. The album's two longest tracks, "The Philosopher" and "The Barrel Organ," although quite different are also its best; tellingly, they conclude the two sides of the record.
Although Secrets only plays for thirty-three minutes altogether, there is more than enough fine music here to demonstrate that Cater and Fagaschinski's creative methodology succeeds handsomely. We must hope that they are at work on a follow-up... and that it will not take another six years to appear.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ, John Eyles, 12/2019
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Da haben sich wieder zwei gefunden, mutmaßlich in Berlin. Seamus Cater, Sänger, Keyboarder und Ziehharmonikaspieler an einer Uralt-Concertina, hatte zuletzt mit dem Soloalbum The Three Things You Can Hear so manche Operation am offenen Herzen erfolgreich vollführt (siehe freiStil #67), Klarinettist Kai Fagaschinski war auf dieser Platte einer von mehreren Gästen und fluktuiert ohnedies gern zwischen diversen Zweierbeziehungen (z.B. The International Nothing mit Michael Thieke, The Dogmatics mit Chris Abrahams), wenn er nicht gerade umwerfende Tests mit The Elks besteht. Weder als Duohälfte noch überhaupt jemals hat er meines Wissens Substanzloses auf sein Kerbholz gebracht, aber das kann ja noch werden. So gesehen, überrascht es wenig, dass Secrets, die erste Duoplatte dieser beiden solitären Minimalisten, um es neutral zu formulieren, zu gefallen weiß bzw., um es Partei ergreifend zu sagen, komplett begeistert. Und da fabelhafter Musik (nicht übersehen, sie mit 45rpm abzuspielen!) fabelhafte Titel gut zu Gesicht stehen, treffen wir hier u.a. auf As We Destroyed the Band, auf Blasphemy und auf The Dot Before the I. Picobello!
FREISTIL, Andreas Fellinger, 12/2019
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Cater ist mir mit Uncle Woody Sullender und mit seiner Concertina zwar schon als seltsamer Vogel begegnet, aber erst sein Mitwirken bei den "Ockeghem Octets" von Antoine Beuger ist ein deutlicher Hinweis, dass er am liebsten auf wandelweiserischen Pfaden wandelt. Mit dem DNK Ensemble und Stücken von Stefan Thut oder Michael Pisaro, von seinen Mit-DNK-lern Dante Boon und Koen Nutters oder eigenen. Hier hat der aus Essex stammende, 2000 in Amsterdam vor Anker gegangene Wayfarer Kai Fagaschinski an der Seite, der mit seiner durch The International Nothing, The Magic I.D., The Dogmatics und, nicht zu vergessen, The Elks ins Ohr gewurmten Echtzeit-Klarinette auch schon bei Caters "The Three Things You Can Hear" (2016) zur Stelle war. Die "Secrets"-Musik ist genau besehen sogar schon davor entstanden, zwischen 2013 und 2016. Songs wie 'As We Destroyed the Band' mit seinem Slamdancing und unverstandener Drehorgel. Wie 'Blackout', wo Cater stotternd drum bittet, die Zündschnur auszublasen, den Stecker zu ziehen, damit's endlich mal so duster wird wie's ist. 4:33 um die Finsternis zu hören. Wie 'The Dot Before the I' mit pingendem Stakkato, dumpfen Rhodeszweiklängen, vokalisiertem Aaa und kryptisch hingekrakelten Worten als an Knochen aufgehängter Haut. Oder wie steht geschrieben: ...ist Fleisch geworden und hat unter uns gewohnt? Blasphemie? The only sacred thing to me is blasphemy, legt Fagaschinski Cater in den Mund. Dazwischen: 'The 26th of March' (Beethovens Todestag, der von Raymond Chandler, von Roland Barthes?) - die Concertina spinnt lange Fäden zu Haltetönen und Sinuswellen der Klarinette. 'The Philosopher' bringt grillenzartes Sirren, dunklen Hauch, Ton für Ton. Cater wiederholt ständig eine Rhodes-Figur, von der Klarinette samtweich gestreift. Doch schneller Klingklang erntet schrillen Einspruch. 'Clarinet and Concertina' webt aus zarten Wellen und feinen Linien ein helldunkles Gewebe, so fein, dass man die Bläschen auf der Zunge prickeln hört. Und 'The Barrel Organ' sirrsurrt zuletzt als atmendes Chiaroscuro. Wie Cater halb spricht, halb singt, erinnert mich an David Grubbs. Wie dazu die Klarinette ululiert, das geht ganz magisch zusammen. Cater drückt schwarze Rhodes-Tasten, setzt die Worte bedächtig, pingt einen einzelnen Glockenspielton. Gäbe es nicht schon gedachte Musik und wunderliche Leiermanntristesse, hiermit wären sie erfunden.
BAD ALCHEMY, Rigobert Dittmann, Germany 11/2019
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Yet another instance of previous acquaintance with only half of a duo – clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski – whereas with Seamus Cater (vocals, concertina, Rhodes piano, harmonica) this is a welcome first encounter.
The sound of Secrets is both rarefied and condensed. Born from the intention of creating material not schematized by codes or blueprints, it was composed on the spot without preliminary sketches, and subsequently scored. The musicians developed this form of articulation over about six years of “secluded work” before deciding to enter the studio. It could ring very “zen”, weren’t this writer repelled by this term, nowadays exploited by the rapidly expanding market of mental control.
The music is essential, sparse, deprived of conflicts, mainly informed by intelligible lines escorting each other or quietly intersecting; the only dissonance remembered right now is a shrieking clarinet in “The Philosopher”. There is a conscious search for the correct vibratory distance related to the contiguity of certain tones, which yields gentle (or less) beatings in several tracks. However, the whole’s foundation remains Cater and Fagaschinski’s innate ability to extrapolate fragments of melody and unobtrusive clusters from stillness, adorning them with dim lights. The lyrics, where applicable, tend towards a mild surrealism (minus the affectation); they do not represent the crux of the biscuit, though, appearing more as a pretext to use the voice as an additional instrument/contrapuntal component. The last piece “The Barrel Organ” is a veritable miniature mantra, perhaps the lone episode that could be described as minimalist.
Overall, a useful enhancement of one’s depressurization process.
After a keen interest in each others music, Seamus Cater and Kai Fagaschinski decided to combine their differing approaches.
A song album was conceived and the long road towards it was echoed by the long road which connects their respective cities of Amsterdam and Berlin....more