• phono_phono
absinth records #14, series diametral acoustics

Magda Mayas: piano, synth
Michael Renkel: ac. guitar, live electronics
Sabine Vogel: flutes, live electronics

ltd. edition
hand printed
screen print gouache on cardboard

1. Theme ____________14:45
2. Interlude I_____________01:48
3. Silent Bombing ___________20:21
4. Interlude II ____________02:02
5. Perception Feedback __________09:11
6. Interlude III ________________02:57
7. Rasp and Rest _______________13:40
total ___ _______________________65:32

phono_phono (I believe it’s the name of the ensemble as well as the album) is a trio with Magda Mayas (piano, synthesizer), Sabine Vogel (flutes, electronics) and Michael Renkel (guitar, electronics). Though it’s nowhere indicated, I get the impression that Renkel is the driving force behind at least the suite presented here which, though clearly consisting of a great deal of improvisation, just as clearly has a prearranged structure of sorts. The seven tracks find four longish ones (about nine to twenty minutes) separated by three “interludes” in the 2-3 minute range. Things drift toward the quiet and spacious sometimes, as in the opening piece, edging into a territory with Feldman-esque overtones, resembling that composer’s work for semi-similar trios (flute, piano percussion). The interludes are like cool, misty ponds separating the more tangled, irregular wooded patches between them, very lovely in and of themselves. Much of the suite is languidly paced, using generally consonant tones (even the clicks, bangs and whirs don’t read as especially harsh) but things gradually pick up tempo, real or implied, as the piece develops. The third section, “Silent Bombing”, is more rambunctious, bumpier. Renkel’s guitar, while always retaining its recognizability as such, gets a bit frantic, Vogel’s flute more breathily urgent. Here and elsewhere, the coherence of the three musicians into a balanced whole is very impressive. Indeed, “balanced” fits the trio very well; there’s an enjoyable sense of steady, serene creation throughout. The final interlude sets some rhythmic ideas in motion that surface several minutes into the final movement, the sort of rapidly flitting sounds that recall Gunter Muller. That addition, plus some of the rougher plucking and thwacking to be found on the disc, does its part to make the last track the highlight of the album, a really strong, vital piece. One hopes this trio remains together and takes off from here.
Good stuff.
Posted by Brian Olewnick on May 13, 2007 12:53 PM

Another very strong CD I've been playing a lot is from the trio of Michael Renkel, Sabine Vogel and Magda Mayas who go by the collective name of Phono Phono, which also seems to be the title of their first album on the Absinth label. Another review planned for this one, which is a curious mix of guitar, piano, flute and electronics, ranging from very quiet Feldmanesque moments to quirky quickfire improv, but somehow all making sense as one big whole. I had no expectations for this disc when it arrived, but have been pleasantly surprised at how much I've enjoyed it.
Richard Pinnell

Problem with silence is that it's too still. There is a world of sounds in fact that breaks the monotony of silence and gives birth to something new and exciting. On the other hand, there are ensembles that work closely with one another and understand silence to be another tool they can use in the creative process. One such gathering of musicians is the trio made up of pianist/synth player Magda Mayas, guitarist/electronics guru Michael Renkel and flautist/electronics witch Sabine Vogel. Together they machinate silence and concoct something amazingly new out of the deepest, darkest corners of their creative imaginations. Recorded in November 2005 in Berlin, the album features what in some people's minds would pass for utter silence, while others would automatically declare this as music. Of course, the answer is this is music and it's music at its very finest. My guess is some of the material was "though-out" prior to actual recording, though this is purely improvised music. Gentle tickles of the ivories are heard throughout as is delicate synth work. Renkel's guitar is strewn out in gentle humming passages. Sometimes he taps the body of his instrument, while at others, he actually plucks the strings. Electronic treatments are done in such a way as to accentuate the sound of the instruments. Pops, cracks and static that is heard is a mandatory player in the game, seeing how both Vogel and Renkel utilize electronics in a generous way. Vogel's flute work is haunting throughout and more often than not is kept to tight, time-out blows or just timid taps of the tongue. Put together, the trio is extremely committed and plays each pause and phrase with exact devotion and care to details. Generous portion of improvised music with emphasis on the electro-acoustic. Packaged in a gorgeous cardboard sleeve, and limited to only 500 copies, I recommend you pick up a copy without delay.
GAZ - Tom Sekowski

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