Reviews

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, UK, 09/2009

Stefan Drees, Positionen, Germany, 05/2010

Heinrich Deisl, Skug, Austria, 07/2009

[Walter Weidringer, Die Presse, Austria, 04/2009]

[Mario Biserni, Sands-Zine, Italy, 04/2009]

[Stefano I. Bianchi, Blow up, Italy, 02/2009]

[Carsten Fastner; Falter; Austria, 02/2009]

[Alan Jones, Bagatellen, USA, 01/2009]

[Massimo Ricci, Brain Dead Eternity, Italy, 01/2009]

[TJ Norris, USA, 01/2009]

[Glen Hall, Exclaim, Canada, 12/2008]

[Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, Netherlands, 11/2008]

[Marita Emigholz, Nordwestradio, Germany, 12/2008]

[Susanna Bolle, WZBC, USA, 10/2008]



[Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, UK, 09/2009]

Collaged journeys inside a laptop. This exceptional Austrian sound-artist has impressed us before with his art-gallery installation type work. But here he is doing it in a live situation, performing at international venues before many arapt audience, and once again providing many substantial audio experiences backed up with strong thought-through concepts. Eight pieces here from 2007-08; he does them with a laptop (an Apple Mac Powerbook to judge from cover art) packed with samples. To be more precise, he brings to the live arena pieces of his own recent music and installation work which are recycled and repurposed with imagination and sensitivity, plus new field recordings and samples which are combined, live, in an intuitive way. Where his compelling installation work has been immersive but static, these live performances assume the shape of mini-journeys, taking us through impossible landscapes in the manner of Francisco López, Loren Chasse or murmer.

Some musicians playing actual instruments have contributed their sounds; the piano of Xenia Hu on two cuts, the Guzheng of Yeh Jiuan-Reng on two more, and female voices on three other pieces. Quite often the live samples are taken from the very cities or countries he's performing in, thus embedding the performance very strongly in a particular locale; on occasion he will even sample the voices of people in the audience. Gál means to connect to his listeners in a personal and meaningful way, benignly reflecting certain aspects of their own environment back onto them; Carl Michael Von Hausswolff has often used a similar strategy, but I feel he always had a sinister and slightly confrontational motive behind it.

All these pieces are exceptionally strong, but with the help of Gál's useful informative notes I will single out four of them that struck me particularly. 'Pierce' uses the sound of an inkjet printer which Gál combines, with all the skill of a poet, with bird calls and crickets; this vision of technology and nature grows in stature and volume as it's combined with rainfall and a train (fetched from Austria). What starts as a lyrical miniature becomes a mighty and roaring vision of nature's unstoppable grandeur, as elements are skilfully blended. 'Velvet Green' was performed in Washington DC, where Gál silenced the chatter of the audience by starting his performance unannounced, and started to key in extracts from one of his 'voice-sculpture' pieces. The cut-up jabbering voices (resulting in syllabic nonsense) caused a gradual realisation amongst the audience that they might be hearing something more interesting than their vapid talk about mortgages and babysitters, and were soon led along a sonic path involving a subway train from Vienna, a forest, and more voice pieces.

That subway train appears again on 'Konzerthauskeller', which begins with a fragment of the sound of the train door shutting, but it's treated and extended into a slow-moving grey field of steely noise; a single small event takes 3-4 minutes to happen. Again, using snapshots from travel, the listener is conducted on a minijourney that takes in bird calls, field recordings, and a Casino in Las Vegas. None of these elements are laid out arbitrarily, and as before Gál delights in finding consonances in certain tiny sounds, comparing them for acoustic rhymes.

Finally I single out the 15-minute 'Ordinary Love', recorded in China in 2007 and which attempts to make very deliberate statements about night club life in Guangzhou. This involves the game of billiards, casino night life, nightclub songs, a night market and samples of the traditional stringed instrument the guzheng. These disparate elements are strung out and glued together by continual ambient drones, hums and semi-musical tones which Gál generates, suspending his samples in a thin musical soup. What impresses me is how, having heard other field recordists work with similar disparate elements yet seemingly unable to reprocess them in any meaningful way, Gál's vision is structured by logical connections, acoustical matches, and intuitive leaps of imagination that, as I say, mark him out as a poet of sound art. That he can make these profound, reflective statements while working in a live setting marks him out as a very intelligent and distinctive talent. But we knew that already.
    
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***

[Stefan Drees, Positionen, Germany, 05/2010]

Bernhard Gáls CD relive enthält die Mitschnitte einiger Laptop-Performances des Komponisten aus den Jahren 2007 und 2008. Dokumentiert sind höchst unterschiedliche Ansätze des elektronischen Umgangs mit Klängen. Meist dienen als Ausgangspunkt einfache Ereignisse, die konsequent in eine bestimmte Richtungen verfolgt, verändert und in mitunter sehr sparsamen Klangsituationen entfaltet werden. Die Behutsamkeit, mit der Gál hierbei zu Werke geht, verdeutlicht, dass er sich der Suche nach Effekten verweigert und stattdessen seine Aufmerksamkeit auf den Wahrnehmungsprozess und die Intensität der Hörerfahrung richtet. Die elektronische Ausweitung von Klangräumen des Klaviers in meu nome é gal também, das Abtasten sich wandelnder Dichtezustände in konzerthauskeller und ordinary love oder auch die Dissoziation semantischer Einheiten in velvet green, immer verbunden mit dem Versuch, die Klänge von ihren möglichen Konnotationen zu lösen, gewinnen hier installative Qualitäten.

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***

[Heinrich Deisl, Skug, Austria, 07/2009]

Werkschau des umtriebigen Wiener Klang- und Installationsmusikers: Gáls achte Solo- und erste Live-VÖ umfasst in neun Stücken acht Locations in China, USA, Deutschland und Österreich. Wie bei Gál üblich, erweist sich das akustische Ambiente der Aufführungsorte als forschungs -und handlungsleitend, in präzise auf einander abgestimmten Settings aus Fieldrecordings und teils reicht frei assoziierten Klangkaskaden werden Soundcluster aufgezogen, die oft nur wenig überhalb der Hörgrenze liegen. Immer wieder pendeln die Stücke zwischen hochkonzentrierten, präzisen Klangauslotungen, schier hinterfotzigen Konzepten und zufälligen Gegebenheiten. Bei dem Konzert in Washington wollte das Publikum nicht ruhig sein, weshalb Gál Stimmaufnahmen so laut hochfuhr, bis sie ordentlich Verwirrung stifteten. Für die Session in Hamburg diente ein Teekessel als Klanggenerator. Und beim Konzert in Richmond vermengen sich Zirpenklänge mit dem Nadelsurren aus dem benachbarten Tatoo-Laden. “Uhudler“ erscheint symptomatisch für „relive“: Aufnahmen aus einem steirischen Weingarten, und bevor es zu gemütlich wird, geht die akustische Reise per Nebelhorn und Didgeridoo-artigen Sounds in die elektrische Abflusspumpe. Spannendes Teil.

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[Walter Weidringer, Die Presse, Austria, 04/2009]

Suggestive Live-Performances zwischen ätherischen Klaviertönen, Sprachfragmenten, Lauten aus Natur und Technik sowie harten, aber differenzierten Noise-Attacken: „bernhard gal: relive“, die bei Gromoga erschienene neue CD des international renommierten Wiener Komponisten und Klangkünstlers Bernhard Gál, dokumentiert jüngere, in Europa, den USA und Fernost präsentierte Arbeiten ohne nachträgliche Zutat und lässt dadurch immer auch den originalen Raum mitklingen: Diese Hörthriller bringen Assoziationen zum Sprudeln.

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[Mario Biserni, Sands-Zine, Italy, 04/2009]

Presso i musicisti elettro-elettronici dell’ultima generazione, in particolare quelli che utilizzano il calcolatore portatile, le registrazioni effettuate in concerto non sembrano avere un ruolo particolarmente significativo né essere particolarmente stimolanti. È così che questo disco di Bernhard Gál, contenente brani registrati nel biennio 07/08 in vari angoli del pianeta, assume un significato affatto particolare, fin dalla scelta di lasciare le registrazioni al loro stato originario, senza aggiunta successiva di materiali, a inversione di un modo di procedere che sembra ormai essere diventato la norma. Accanto ai brani costruiti con il solo portatile, e utilizzando sia un parco base di registrazioni concrete sia semplici frequenze sonore, ve ne sono altri nei quali il manipolatore si produce in una valida scelta di collaborazioni che coinvolgono la pianista Xenia Hu (Meu nome è Gal também e Schulterblatt) così come la guzhengista Yeh Jiuan-Reng (Ordinary love e Hungover), e rispetto a quest’ultima mi preme precisare che nel risultato non v’è affatto quell’etnicismo da cortile che spesso ritrovo, e che quasi sempre mi lascia perplesso, in quei musicisti che decidono di utilizzare strumentazioni non appartenenti alla tradizione occidentale. Gal agisce sul campo con concerti e installazioni che lo portano spesso in continenti extraeuropei, quindi tocca con mano culture che viste dal nostro ‘piccolo’ mondo ci paiono come ‘arretrate’ mentre sempre più spesso ci sopravvanzano per iniziativa e per grado d’evoluzione. Questo stesso CD documenta in parte tale attività con registrazioni provenienti da concerti tenuti a Florianópolis in Brasile (Meu nome è Gal também) e Canton nella Repubblica Popolare Cinese (Ordinary love). Un ultimo aspetto riguarda l’interazione con la voce umana, un settore nel quale l’austriaco si è sempre rivelato un maestro, fin da quella babele di lingue che fu il suo esordio discografico (“Bestimmung New York” pubblicato nel 1999 su Durian), e che per l’occasione viene utilizzata in tre degli otto brani (Velvet green, Schulterblatt e Ordinary love). Ai classici motivi delle registrazioni in pubblico, riassumibili nella volontà da parte dell’artista di dare dimostrazione del suo reale valore, se ne aggiunge quindi uno peculiare: attraverso “Relive” potrete avere una visione a tutto tondo degli stimoli che animano questo musicista tanto poliedrico.

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[Stefano I. Bianchi, Blow up, Italy, 02/2009]

Registrato in varie location tra l’autunno 2007 e l’estate 2008, il primo CD dal vivo di Bernhard Gál cattura il musicista da solo col suo laptop e pochi altri device elettronici in una serie di composizioni improvvisate in tempo reale prendendo a prestito elementi sonori registrati in precedenza (sequenze di piano, rumori concreti, voci). Ciò che interessa Gál non è l’effetto musicale ma la collocazione spaziale del suono e dei suoi derivati, la loro misura acustica, le tonalità che assumono spostandosi e rimbalzando nell’aria e nel suo contesto - non a caso la press sheet si perita di sottolineare come le performance riflettano sia l’acustica che le caratteristiche socioculturali delle diverse venue. Il disco è quindi una sorta di puzzle a divenire variabile (direi che dovremmo cercare di ascoltarlo in posti diversi per vedere l’effetto che fa) in cui le note di piano appaiono e scompaiono come cellule che fluttuano, i rumori di una stampante ad aghi diventano d’un tratto elementi indistinti di una ritmica metafisica, le singole sillabe di una parola note circolanti tra le volute fumose di un anello di frequenze pure. Emergono, per riuscita involontariamente musicale, la bellissima Konzerthauskeller e la cupezza risonante di Schulterblatt, due brani che da soli potrebbero giustificare l’esistenza del disco. Che probabilmente è il miglior disco mai pubblicato da Gál.

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[Carsten Fastner; Falter; Austria, 02/2009]

Nicht nur stilistisch ist der Wiener Komponist und Klanginstallateur Bernhard Gál (geb. 1971) ziemlich umtriebig, auch auf seinen Konzertreisen kommt er weit in der Welt herum. Beides dokumentiert nun sein erstes Livealbum mit unbearbeiteten Mitschnitten aus Wien und Hamburg, Washington, D.C., und Richmond, Florianópolis, Guangzhou und St. Johann im Saggautal. Solo­kompositionen für Klavier (mit Xenia Hu) sind darauf ebenso vertreten wie Stimmperformances, elektronisch bearbeitete Feldaufnahmen oder Stücke für Guzheng, eine chinesische Wölbbrettzither.

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[Alan Jones, Bagatellen, USA, 01/2009]

For the last ten years, sound artist Bernhard Gal has worked tirelessly with new strains of audio, steadily building a sizable discography that pushes the envelope within a niche music genre, and further with video art. His latest disc, Relive, uses excerpts from previous solo laptop performances to thumb its nose at the hit-or-miss nature of compilations with a nicely constructed string of tracks, on what is apparently Gal’s first “live” recording. Gal’s different-kind-of-live gig often includes sources fully pre-destined for an audience, only to be spliced or improvised upon as the music is pulled from memory in real time. The selections chosen for Relive benefit heavily from some choice sequencing and diversity. Some esotericism is at play. Consider “meu nome é gal também” and “schulterblatt”, two of Gal’s own compositions performed at prior, unrelated events by pianist Xenia Hu. Gal included these recordings, treating them as field captures in his own live performance, and propping them against the granularity of “konzerthauskeller”, a fully enveloping piece which explores the very limits of reverb decay. Relive steps further out with serrated glitchiness in explorations of timbre and attack in everyday sounds; he’s one of the more gifted musicians with controlling the response of contact microphones and filters. It’s a fine, fine disc which, instead of the so fashionable tendency to re-benchmark one’s own work with every release, encapsulates the whole of one’s recent work cleverly, drawing upon itself as its own source material. A shame that releases of this collective, documentary nature aren’t more common and controlled.

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[Massimo Ricci, Brain Dead Eternity, Italy, 01/2009]

Austrian composer and musicologist Bernhard Gál owns a definite place in this writer’s memory, as he was among the very first artists reviewed in Touching Extremes back at the beginnings, in 2001. Having lost contact with his production for several years, it was a pleasure receiving the latest news from him and discovering that not only the qualities found at that time haven’t vanished, but gleam of a light of improved responsiveness to the surrounding elements of reality.

Relive is both innovation and a look at the long-ago in that sense: as a matter of fact Gál – who usually performs equipped with no more than a laptop in his live activity – gathered eight excerpts from sets dating from 2007 and 2008, recorded in various locations of the world, using fragments and samples from past installations and CDs and combining them in all-new compositions, the large part remarkable when not outright riveting.

What distances this man from the average manipulator is a highly skilled, refined logic of placement of the event, whatever the initial plan; he’s essentially able to devise pieces where the juxtaposition of electronically treated birds, a motorized movement such as a subway train’s shutting door and a “voice sculpture” (“Velvet Green”) weigh exactly the same in the psychology of the listeners, who remain at once surprised and graciously embraced by the reasonably hospitable atmosphere that the (supposedly) improbable concoction generates.
In “Schulterblatt” we find ourselves perking up the ears towards the subtle whisper of a series of hissing tea kettles until vocal splinters, feedback resonance and sparse touches of piano slightly alter the dynamics of the piece. “Uhudler” - perhaps the best chapter in terms of pure aural gratification, a modified ship horn and an electric shower drain pump contrasting an enticing mesmerism - is the track which will mostly satisfy the craving of those who wonder if drones have a role in this music. They do, indeed. Yet it’s just one of the many hues utilized by a half-architect, half-chiaroscuro painter whose musical conception still privileges the probing of silence as a crucial starting point for investigation.

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[TJ Norris, USA, 01/2009]

(...) one of five cds that has actually remained in my disc changer since that time. It's been played numerous times. It's something that's become part of my personal environment, and has even survived its place given that I have even relocated in the process. It's sparse and awkward, environmental and somehow perfectly complements things I do in my personal space.

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[Glen Hall, Exclaim, Canada, 12/2008]

Austrian sound artist Bernhard Gal is an “ear camera.” His listening is so acute, so sensitive that the field recordings that form the basis of many of his pieces are rendered with the precision and attention to detail one expects from a Leica or Hasselblad in an expert’s hands. Relive is a compilation of recordings from a number of his diverse live performances over the last two years. A composer of particular depth, Gal applies his deep listening skills to the clusters of overtones on his piano piece “Meu Nome Gal Também,” where he feeds back frequencies into the projection of the pre-recorded piano part. “Konzerthauskeller” rings with eerie, throbbing tones, susurrating sibilances and delicate chiming. It takes an extraordinary mind to find inspiration in the commonplace, and Gal finds it in ordinary sounds like a word (“Velvet Green”), the beeping in a checkout line or the clicking of pool balls. He also knows how to use the rhythms of machines to fascinating effect, looping bits over the basic pulsations of modern life. Gal is a singular talent.

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[Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, Netherlands, 11/2008]

For whatever reason I am not sure of, the work of Bernard Gal was never much reviewed in these pages, despite his past seven releases, a book and a DVD. It's perhaps a name you see more in the announcement section. Since 2002, he has played over 150 concerts on four continents, armed with his laptop and devices, and through a mixture of on the spot improvisation and through the use of pre-recorded sounds from his previous work (audio, installations), he plays almost every night something new, it seems. So it's perhaps a more than wise decision to release an album of various pieces, as recorded in concert. The press texts gives a detailed description of each of the eight pieces, and its a pity that this is not on the cover, as it is a pretty interest read. The sounds he uses, the spaces he played in, and, in some cases, the people he has played with (pianist Xenia Hu, Guzhengplayer Yeh Jiuan-Reng and the voices of Mandy, Marianthi and Vivian). Gal's selection of his concert recordings is a great one - at least as far as I can judge, as I never saw him play live. Its almost possible to say that these are hardly 'live' pieces at all. They make a coherent whole. Gal shows himself an excellent player on the microsound scene, taking bits of his work and presenting new contexts for them. The spaces play a role in his work in as far that when the audience is super quiet, he is super quiet too, such as in the near silent 'Schulterblatt'. Things buzz, hum, crack in a highly intelligent way and never leap into boredom, despite the ominous length of this release. A very fine release altogether.

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[Marita Emigholz, Nordwestradio, Germany, 12/2008]

(...) Fascinating!

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[Susanna Bolle, WZBC, USA, 10/2008]

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