Even if the name of Ganesh Anandan didn’t ring any bell while approaching this shared outing, everything released by Hans Reichel over the course of a lengthy creative career is deemed as consistently rewarding by this writer. An underappreciated experimental guitarist Reichel used to express himself via monstrous stringed hybrids, generating sparkling harmonics and uncommon chords through customized circuits and fingerboards, releasing masterpieces such as Bonobo Beach and The Death Of The Rare Bird Ymir. In recent years Reichel has concentrated on the Daxophone, an amazing invention exploiting the vibrational capacities of oddly shaped samples of selected exotic woods rubbed with a violin bow. Reichel and René Lussier are amongst the few Daxophone virtuosos existing on earth, the latter’s Le Corps De L’Ouvrage probably the greatest (…the lone?) album of progressive music (meant in the strictest acceptation) featuring this incomparable sonic tool.
But Anandan, too, is the engenderer of an uncharacteristic machine: the 12-string Shruti Box, an electric zither that can be “bowed, plucked and struck among other things”, whose timbre is extremely rich and suggestive (especially when the strings are left to resonate for long, allowing the upper partials to flutter around in magnificent combinations). He also plays the Metallophone, a nearly “regular” mallet instrument that, in conjunction with the former, allows this artist to sound like a mini gamelan orchestra one moment, a highly sophisticated improviser the next.
The twelve tracks comprised by Self Made — eleven duos and an extensive solo by the percussionist — are both remarkably ingenious and a symbol of integration, in every sense. Though the overall sonority is always perceptibly structured and lean as a well-trained body without an ounce of fat, the extemporaneous phenomena generated by the duo are many, all completely welcome. The Daxophone is Phil Minton’s closest relative in terms of vocal outrageousness, its incredible tones acquiring the semblance of a native Indian flute, a broken viola, a drunken horse’s whinny, an angry monkey, a hoarse fowl, an old man’s gargle. Reichel is in total command, exciting the wood’s cells with unarguable dexterity and formidable sensibility, squeezing out of those little sculptures the distillate of a biological responsiveness that ultimately belongs to the trees from which they originate. Anandan represents an ideal partner, intersecting the German’s anarchic dissertations with the composure of a sage, eliciting iridescent auras, subdued clusters and freckled counterpoints, interweaving garlands of quietly inscrutable radiant resonance, an example of restraint and soberness entailing an irreprehensible logic.
A gorgeous record that reconciles with the concept of listening with the mind delivered by prejudices and formats, at the same time tickling our own desire of picking an instrument — whatever it is — to start searching for new paths to tread. Procure yourselves an authentic exemplar of such a nugget, not forgetting a visit to Reichel’s humorously interactive website (www.daxo.de) to learn about his inimitability in anything he’s involved in. Needless to say, I’m equally interested in hearing more from Anandan after this. To put it concisely, a winner.