Boomkat Product Review:
With Peter Rehberg on laptop and zeitkratzer's Reinhold Friedl using his self-styled "inside piano" technique, this 2021 collaboration is as explosive as you'd expect, illuminated with bit-mangled distortion, scraping metal, and prepared strings.
When Editions Mego boss Peter Rehberg and Reinhold Friedl met for the first time, they didn't exactly see eye-to-eye. "We had very different backgrounds: he came from industrial and I had roots in classical music and improv, a high-brow prick," Friedl recalls in the album's accompanying press release. They had bumped into each other in Tokyo, when Friedl was putting together the fringe events for 2000's International Computer Music Conference. Friedl didn't fully understand Rehberg's music, despite having invited him to perform, and although they bumped into each other plenty of times in the following years they didn't have much to say to each other. That all changed at a concert in Vienna just over a decade ago, when the two played back to back sets and realized they had more in common than they'd assumed; a few dinners and long chats later and they were firm friends - fortunate since they lived only minutes from each other.
Pita/Friedl is pulled from two completely improvised sessions last year and is presented without editing. Just painstakingly mixed by Schneider TM's Dirk Dresselhaus, the album is otherwise untouched, standing as an accurate document of the duo's artistic conversation. Each track is named after an Italian word for noise, and this lightness characterizes the collaboration; the tracks are serious in many ways and musically rigorous, but the two friends have a way of puncturing the mood, never letting their sound travel too far into smug sound art. Instead, it's almost as if they're pushing at each other's musical boundaries. Friedl's well-worn technique of improvised experimental performance on the grand piano is surprisingly well matched with Rehberg's idiosyncratic laptop processes, providing depth and dimensionality to the buzzing clusters of distortion and hyperactive synthesized squeaks.
If you've come across Rehberg's iconic KTL recordings with Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley, you'll have some idea of the way Reheberg is able to balance a collaborator's inherent strengths. There, he was able to amplify and multiply O'Malley's leviathan drones, here however, he pushes Friedl's instrumental rattles, clangs and low-end rumbles into the outer margins, sometimes mimicking them and blurring the line between the digital and acoustic realms, and often purposefully sticking out, allowing us to consider Friedl's technique by having our brain smoothed by Rehberg's comparative sonic sandpaper. The opening third 'Caciara' is a fascinating proof of concept that starts as it means to go on, playing Rehberg's unmistakable digital detritus against similar-but-different piano string manipulation from Friedl. It's music that wants us to consider pure sound - composition isn't the key here, the duo are improvising texturally and allowing the dynamics to shape themselves accordingly.
In the middle of the piece, prepared piano reverberations are matched by Rehberg's growling DSP that splinter into ear piercing oscillator wails. For a moment he plays the role of lead violin, and Friedl matches, the two capturing an almost meditative cacophony. Friedl bangs his piano strings with animalistic force, and Rehberg interrupts the drones to remind us that he's completely in control - but it's what comes next that's particularly impressive. Instead of progressively building into blasted noise, the track subsides gently to reveal Friedl's most gentle, evocative playing. For his part, Rehberg joins with dark, low-end textures that sound as if they've been drenched in liquid acid. Comparatively 'Chiassio' is more torched, sounding like an extended release of breath with both artists trading corrugated sheets of noise, almost never letting up.
'Clamore' is where the collaboration slips into its most comfortable gear. Here Rehberg is animated but somewhat restrained, operating in the high frequency range making his arsenal of plugins sound like jets of water against Friedl's studied preparations. The tension of this one is where it feels most impressive, and the two appear to let each other take the lead interchangeably, forcing the sound into different crevices and constantly bucking any expectations. Whether you're into brickwall sheet noise or the outer realms of modern improv, "Pita/Friedl" is an essential document of an unexpected collaboration. Huge recommendation.