Blast from the Past: Eclectic Blah – Live in Several Places

Ok, I finally decided to make a few tracks from my old “Eclectic Blah” group public. Read on for the details – or just use the player below and listen!

About Eclectic Blah

Eclectic Blah was founded by me back in 2001. The idea: get a varying set of musicians, plus some guests from time to time, and do one thing: play music which is danceable – and also completely freely improvised.

What sounds like a completely whacked idea actually did work – so good in fact that by mid-2004, the concept worked so convincingly, I decided to disband the group and focus on other things.

During those years, most of the sessions and concerts we played had been recorded – in case of the concerts starting early in 2003, in high-quality multitrack. Still, nothing of this has ever been kinda released – until now.

Here’s your choice of some concerts recording, spanning the period from January 4th in 2003, up to the last official gig on May 15th of 2004.

Note that due this not being a proper release, the sonic picture does vary. There’s no general approach to mixing or mastering applied, the tracks have not only been performed but also been edited in the period between 2003 and 2004. With that in mind – have fun!

Spheres

Our second performance at a venue called Klosterbauhof in Ebersberg on May 31st of 2003 entitled The Ebersberg Enigma, this was the period where Eclectic Blah had already started to be able to freely improvise material ending up in a properly structured song-based format.

Starting off is Erik Müller on acoustic guitar with some wah chords, before Christian Klos (who had around then become our main bass player) starts with a deceptively simple bass line. I add one of my fave self-made patches on the Nord Modular (some sample-and-hold filter stuff), plus later organ courtesy of the Korg Wavestation. On top of that ride Jan Kühner’s slowly arpeggiated electric guitar chords.

The rhythm section in addition to Christian on this one are Phonky Phrance Wechtenbruch on drums and Ralf Gruber (incidentially, the only guy in Eclectic Blah next to me who played every one of our official concerts) on percussion (including a second snare working for some nice interplay with Phonky in the out chorus).

Solid State

One of three tracks represented here from the Nocturnal Emission concert of April 11th 2004 at Monofaktur München (a club which usually catered to a more electro crowd, yet had this event series by the Abfunk people), this may have been if not the loudest of our concerts (that was the Veedolkeller appearance mentioned below), then the one with the most intense sound. Next to the base section of Gruber/dr, Klos/b and myself on keys, we added first-time guest Jörg Weger (of Babacools, the Goldmine) and, as recurring guests, Filzinho on percussion and Wolfi Schlickhorn (Poets of Rhythm, Express Brass Band,…), albeit the latter two didn’t play on that track.

This track really shines due to the combination of Weger’s surf-style guitar melody, plus Ralf’s wicked drumming – for me, the only job was to add screaming keyboard chords from time to time. Nice!

In Deep Water

For groups focussing on improvised material, the blues is usually a good starting point. Yet, this track was the first time Eclectic Blah had ever played a blues, two-and-a-half-years in existence!

Also from the Nocturnal Emission event, this track has Wolfi Schlickhorn standing in the center of attention. After a soft intro with Schlickhorn (on tenor sax with Space Echo and Multi-Vider) and Weger, the rhythm section (augmented by Filzinho on Jombu) kicks in, before I come in on electric piano. Two chorusses by Schlickhorn are followed by two played by me, then Schlickhorns goes completely crazy. It’s time for a really soft section with Weger playing a beautiful solo on top of Klos/Gruber’s backdrop, before the three of them shift into overdrive (watch out for Gruber’s playing here!) and bring it home as a trio.

The Porcupine

Part of the The Last Days of Veedolkeller concert (January 4th 2003), this was the first concert to feature Christian Klos, and also the first one to be mixed and recorded by my big setup. As if that weren’t enough, the presenters had provided a high-quality active PA designed for a venue about four times as big. The concert was incredibly loud, yet didn’t hurt your ears, all the while the master fader was at about -14dB – all concerts should sound like this!

The rhythm section is identical to the “Spheres” track, with Gruber making heavy use of some synthesizer bass drum sound on this one. This is augmented by me on keys, and Jan Kühner on guitar – who actually had been short of reporting sick that very evening. He played the performance with high temperature and on heavy medication – if that hindered or actually enhanced his performance is for you to judge.

After the intro played by Gruber and Klos (fretless), we have me coming in with some Wavestation chords, before Kühner launches into a soaring lead. At the end of this, I start a counterpoint with a 70s synth lead, and then continue to launch into my own DL4-enhanced solo while Kühner comps with an almost electric-piano-like sound, before the whole group takes it into a heavy coda.

Harvey Wallbanger

Taken from Eclectic Blah’s last concert, Fractal Dimension, performed May 15th, this one is all about jungle.

A great opening with Gruber on drums delievering a heavy fill to my synth chords, we have then Thomas Würdinger on bass entering oh-so-deeply. Kühner on guitar adds nice cadences and guitar motifs, on top of which I start to develop themes, and cleverly building a proper song around these few melodic lines. The track ends as it has started, unexpectedly and neatly arranged. This track may have been the main reason I decided that Eclectic Blah had ended its “research” phase.

Lazer

A second cocktail-named track from the Fractal Dimension concert, this one is completely different. The track starts (and also ends) with arpeggiated jazz guitar chords by Kühner, before the rhythm section launches into the song, with me on some eighties-fake-epiano. There’s a wonderful interplay between Würdinger and Gruber here, and also the Waldorf Q at its best with the arpeggiator and pattern sequencer in full gear. There’s only a short actual solo by me in this one, the rest is just easy-grooving lounge jazz with a twist (my fave: the keyboard chord voicings following 4:15).

Dreams of Hesse

Also from the Veedolkeller concert, this is again Kühner at his prescriptional-drug-induced best. I start the track on organ, actually intending it to develop into some jazz house thingie, but Phonky on drums thought otherwise. After the rhythm section establishes the groove, Kühner comes in with a stunningly beautiful latin ballad melody, which is played so cleverly it gives both Klos and me all the space behind it to play tricks on harmonization and voicing.

There’s an organ solo as well (which is ok at best), and finally some nice drum/percussion trading at the end, before I bring in the introductory chords in reverse.

Monte Carlo Renormalization Group Technique

One of the tracks I had never considered for release, this is just the full six-piece Blah of the Nocturnal Emission concert ending the concert with everyone flying at full cruise speed through the song. There’s lots of Wolfi-Schlickhorn-madness (taking turns on sax/wah, sax and flute respectively), and the remaining five essentially working as a super-strong yet intricate rhythm section. A nice way to close the set.

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