The International Nothing:
Kai Fagaschinski: clarinet (right)
Michael Thieke: clarinet (left)
Collectively composed by Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, 2015-2017
Recorded by Michael at ausland, Berlin, August 22nd to 24th, 2017
Mixed by Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski, September and October 2017
Mastered by Werner Dafeldecker in Berlin, November 2017
Cover designed by tanabemse
Supported by ske/austro mechana
Thanks to ausland, tanabemse, Roy, Hanna, Conrad, Dieter, Billy and Werner.
The International Nothing is a Berlin-based psycho-acoustic clarinet duo formed by Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski in 2000. They collectively compose multilayered sound sculptures using multiphonics, beat frequencies and difference tones as an integral part of their language. Both musicians are well known as improvisers but in this project they develop and perform exclusively their own compositions.
Every four years the duo releases an album on the Japanese Ftarri Label. In 2018 they are presenting their fourth duo album In Doubt We Trust. While each of the previous releases consisted of several shorter pieces the duo is now going epic for the first time. The new album is made of a single work of 37 plus minutes. 2 1⁄2 years of deep sonic research in seclusion not only yielded a formal change, but also revealed new and yet unheard acoustic scenarios in slow pace and of fragile beauty.
Despite their branching out into new territories some things always stay the same with The Nothin’: All you hear is two clarinets – no overdubs, no electronic manipulation ... and no improvisation.
Point of Departure
Over the course of 18 years and five recordings, Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke have honed their approach as a self-described “psycho-acoustic” clarinet duo. Coming out of an immersive group of improvised musicians in Berlin, the two gradually moved their duo music toward a process of collective composition, utilizing their deep immersion into the sonic interactions of two clarinets. (Which is not to say that the two abandoned improvisation as both have continued to play in improvised settings outside of their duo.) From their first release, their music has incorporated lyricism within the complexities of partial tones, and used songlike durations for pieces without touching on song structures, depending upon a technical acumen without hinting at sheer technicality. There is an assured focus distilled from careful listening in their pieces that comes out immediately. What sets In Doubt We Trust off from their previous releases is their decision to develop a single extended 37-minute composition rather than building the CD from shorter pieces.
The cover credits the piece as having been developed over the course of 2015-2017 and one can hear a considered, gradually evolving sensibility at play. Tones are carefully chosen and played off of each other, harmonies develop and are then subverted into quavering atonality, textural crinkles and pops contrast with sections of abstracted lyricism. What holds it all together is an unhurried patience to lay out kernels of ideas and sit on them, letting them organically morph and modulate. What is striking throughout is how the two lay bare the workings of the piece. Breath, the clicks of keys, the sibilant sounds of wind resonating through the body of the clarinet are as elemental to this music as fully articulated notes and ephemeral, looped melodic snippets.
The two are masters at playing their instruments off of each other, mining the beatings and quavering, tightly voiced microtonalities. It is also intriguing to hear how the two have absorbed and co-opted the sounds and timbres of analog circuits and glitched electronics into their vocabulary. Burred, breathy reed tones transform into the even oscillations of a sine tone and then back again. There is a section 30 minutes in where clicks, key-pop clatter, clipped notes and interrupted phrasing bring to mind the sound of a failing hard drive. As strong as their previous releases have been, “In Doubt We Trust” is a masterful development in the contemplative, collective creativity of the duo.
by Michael Rosenstein (USA, 06/2018)
The Sound Projector
Jellyfish, loggerhead turtles and squid… these sea creatures are employed as visual motifs for the deep-diving grace of The International Nothing’s first release in four years. Their last, leather-winged full-length flapped past in 2014, with just a guest appearance (for skeletal troubador Seamus Cater) and an augmented lineup in 2016 to tide us over, but otherwise maintaining their leap-year release rate. Sounding like a pair of tone generators, these two clarinetists install their industrial capacity lungs in separate stereo channels from which they sedate our nervous systems with endless patience. Until today, this took place in brief measures, but on In Doubt We Trust they ‘go epic’ and subsume their poppier tendencies into a streamlined, 37-minute beast that slouches towards Berlin to be born. Unlike so many other ‘X years in the making’ boasts, this entails a palpably deeper descent into binaural acoustics and a seemingly effortless, cetacean impression of interweaving sine waves; a format that bears out their claims to have tapped into ‘new and unheard acoustic scenarios’, and even at coolest seabed level there’s a deep, calming warmth for the week-worn nerves.
by Stuart Marshall (UK, 06/2018)
Haunting minimalism is a specialty of Berlin-based psycho-acoustic clarinet duo the International Nothing. But on In Doubt We Trust, Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski expand and deepen their expressiveness in this 38-minute single-movement extended piece.
Founded in 2000, the duo have researched the timbral resources of their instrument and incorporated them into their sensitive and restrained improvisational work. However, on their new release, they have opted for a through-composed framework wherein the results of years of meticulous exploration and discovery are thoughtfully deployed.
Clarinets panned left (Thieke) and right (Fagaschinski), their combined sounds are sonic equivalent of Mr. Spock's Vulcan Mind Meld. The breath of one begins the muted microtonal oscillations of the other. A held, darkened tone flowers into its multi-phonic correlative, which pulses and cedes, flowing into a series of variations, each an unexpected and unique mirror image of its origin. Beat frequencies throb and glow with an eerie life force. Two pitches produce a third "ghost" difference tone that leaves the listener questioning where it's coming from: an auditory "hallucination." The Nothing's recording will reward repeated close listening, but can work as an enveloping musical cocoon to wrap around one's mind when some non-directional thinking fits the mood.
by Glen Hall (Canada, 03/2018)
The duo of German clarinetists Kai Fagaschinksi and Michael Thieke create all manner of psychoacoustic effects with acoustic instruments, building a seamless 37-minute piece from long tones, tongue pops, spittle flecks, unpitched breaths, and other extended techniques. They drone, pulse, wiggle, and swarm, pulling apart and coming together, sometimes suggesting electronic feedback, and generally producing an experience so immersive I'm bummed when it ends.
by Peter Margasak (U.S.A., 06/2018)
Es handelt sich hier um eine ungemein betörende Arbeit von The International Nothing. Auf In Doubt We Trust beweisen Kai Fagaschinski & Michael Thieke einmal mehr, dass es sich auszahlt, an weiteren Zusammenarbeiten dran zu bleiben. Diese Komposition erstreckt sich über knappe 40 Minuten. In akribischer Arbeit wird hier mit Multiphonics, genauen Ton/Schwingungsverhältnissen und kreisendendem Atmen und bewusstem Atemholen gearbeitet. Durch diese Intrumentierung und ihre Positionen zueinander entsteht ein Sog, der starke bildhafte Räume im Innen öffnet. Zusätzlich wird hier klar über Bewegung – den Puls der Töne – das Crescendo und Decrescendo im Raum – verstärkte Klappengeräusche – Überlappungen – Ausreizung von gleichen Schwingungsverhältnissen – gleiche Töne mit unterschiedlichem Fokus auf Obertonverhältnisse und Lautstärken gearbeitet. Ein „Sirenengesang“, der es vermag, einen homogen und bewegt in seinen Bann zu ziehen. Kein Wunder, dass sie sich als psychoakustisches Klarinettenduo bezeichnen. Zusätzlich wird stark auf Bewegung der Töne im Raum und Lautstärken geachtet. Dieses Tun schärft wiederum die Bereitschaft weiterzuhören. Eine tiefe Stille breitet sich trotz der Töne aus. Ergreifend ab der ersten Minute! Es schneit! Geht und hört! Geht und kauft!
by Hirscha (Austria, 03/2018)
I grew up in the house of a classical clarinetist, my father, and I've heard the instrument since I was a baby. So little wonder I'm drawn to the music of Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, two clarinetist working in a distinctly unusual duo setting. It's not about a peculiarity to find two clarinets together, but the type of music this duo plays draw attentions to their union. Rather than impress the listener with complex instrumental technique, the two compose and perform long-form pieces of slow moving, harmonically rich interaction. They weave slow tones and progressions, sometimes in consonance, sometimes letting the harmonic intersections create unusual rhythms of intersticial tones. They overblow on the instrument to create upper register harmonics that ring, and allow the physical sounds of the instrument and their breathing to become part of the music. It's mysterious, filled with anticipation and tension, feeling like it belongs in the electroacoustic world when in fact their sound comes from one of the oldest orchestral instruments, being used in unanticipated ways.
This is the duo's fifth album, though you can also hear their approaches in the music of The Magic I.D. and their work with Christof Kurzmann. The previous album, The Power of Negative Thinking on the Monotype label included double bassist Christian Weber and drummer/percussionist Eric Schaefer. Prior to that, their other three albums, all on the Ftarri label, were duo releases, though presenting shorter pieces. This album introduces their longest composition to date, the title track "In Doubt We Trust", which beautifully unfolds their playing in a gloriously extended form, appropriate to the pacing of their music. So darken your lights, draw your shades, and experience this wonderfully moody and sophisticated album of tone and timbre.
by ??? (U.S.A., 03/2018)
Das Berliner Duo und das japanische Label, die gehen, wenn auch in einem seltsamen 4-Jahresplan, immer wieder gern und gut zusammen: "Mainstream" (2006), "Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything" (2010), "The Dark Side of Success" (2014)... Das Coverdesign von Tanabemse, zuletzt auch bei "The Power Of Negative Thinking" (2016) im erweiterten Verbund von Kai Fagaschinskis & Michael Thiekes Klarinetten mit Eric Schaefer und Christian Weber, der Rhythmsection des Michael Wollny Trios, schafft zusätzlichen Wiedererkennungswert, diesmal mit Meeresfauna. Mit pulsierender Welle und schimmerndem Spaltklang entfalten sich 37:37 als liquides Kontinuum. Gedämpfte Klänge lassen in einem halbschattigen Fluidum sonore Klangsäulen wachsen, ein Mysterium aus schneckenweichen Orgelpfeifen. Man hört die Atemzüge, um die langen, der Zeit spottenden Haltetöne zu spinnen, die da summend mäandrieren und im vollmundigem Unisono anschwellen. Doch plötzlich hört man nur noch ein feines Knistern wie von Lippen, die im Korallenriff weiden, umsponnen von hauchfeinen Lichtfäden, dazwischen klackt ein Choerodon anchorago beim Versuch, eine Muschel zu knacken. Gefolgt von wieder helldunkel tutenden Lauten in molluskenhafter Wallung, im Zeitlosen stehend mit tremolierendem Saum. So taucht man an der Tenney-Küste im Lucier-Riff, Luft saugend und schönheitstrunken im Unterwasserreich der Obertöne. Angeblasen wie von Harmonikazungen, aber in der Gefahrenzone nichts dem Zufall überlassend, ohne manipulativ zui sein: No overdubs, no electronic manipulation, no improvisation.
by Rigobert Dittmann (Germany, 03/2018)
A duo of two clarinet players; that is perhaps something you don’t see every day? Both Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke play one clarinet each and the first is in the right channel, the other left. Over the
years I should think I reviewed some of their releases (Vital Weekly 1041, 939 and 738), so almost everything except their debut from 2006. As a duo they are not interested in playing improvised music but compositions of their own making and for their fourth album (every four years they do one; one was a collaborative release with others and was outside this scheme) they recorded a single track of thirty-seven minutes and the same amount of seconds. They write: ‘no overdubs, no electronic manipulation... and no improvisation”. Hard to believe I would think, as I could swear some of this sounded like electronics, for instance right at the start with some beautifully shimmering mystery tones. I would think that the various separate parts were recorded in various sessions; I counted somewhere around seven to nine individual parts here, and all of it is of some excellent beauty. With The International Nothing space becomes a very important place. It all has to do with how these two clarinets interact with each other, creating microscopic differences between them, and how they travel through the recording space before landing on whatever medium is used to record this. Most of the time it sounds like two clarinets playing long form sounds, long on the sustain, so it sounds like sine waves (hence perhaps my initial thought of this as ‘electronic’, from time to time), but right in the middle there is also a piece for crackling of plastic, perhaps upon the surface of the instruments. Both players play almost the same thing and it would take some very close headphone listening to find out what the differences are between the left and the right channel; I would think very little difference, as both of these are highly accomplished players and I would think they rehearsed their piece very well. This is truly beautiful piece of music!
by Frans de Waard (Netherlands, 02/2018)
I already talked about this Berlin-based project founded by psycho-acoustic clarinet players Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski almost twenty years ago on the occasion of the release of the nicely titled (and performed) "The Power Of Negative Thinking" on Monotype. Besides showing an appreciable wit in the choice of titles, "In Doubt We Trust" features a format that someone would label as 'epic': no more snippets or short tracks, but just one long-lasting (37 minutes and 37 seconds) track, that follow the same publishing periodicity (they highlighted the fact that The International Nothing drop an album out on the Japanese label Ftarri every four years). Even if it's one single track, "In Doubt We Trust" can be ideally detached into different moments: one of the watersheds of their tonal experimental streams - the whole record got based on almost three years of psychoacoustic research - occurs for instance around the 15th minute, where they play with muted tones and salivation after a crescendo of experiments where they almost reach cacophonous dissonances. They mostly focus on so-called Tartini effect, an aural illusion caused by the combination of two different tones of a similar source: the two players "placed" themselves on the two pans (Kai on the right, Michael on the left) and the combination of the tones they play on the two sides of the listeners renders a sort of ghost tone, a third one that comes from their juxtaposition (you can try listening to the same snippet by balancing the pan of your mixer before playing them simultaneously). The effect is so well exploited that the listener can interpret the title of this record, as a reference to a doubt which sounds more reasonable than the one about the existence of some God that these players cast: is this third tone a ghost tone or a real one? Have a listen to try answering to this puzzling question...
by Vito Camarretta (USA, 05/2018)
Giornale della Musica
Troviamo Thieke anche nello stuzzicante e longevo (quest’anno diventa maggiorenne) duo The International Nothing, insieme al compagno di strumento Kai Fagaschinski. Alla base della musica della coppia c’è una pratica di composizione collettiva orientata alla costruzione di scenari sonori stratificati, minimalisti e timbricamente avventurosi.
In Doubt We Trust è una cavalcata unica, di poco più di 35 minuti, una lenta e avviluppante onda di note che sembrano soffiate dalle viscere del cosmo e che con sospettosa morbidezza stringono progressivamente l’ascoltatore in una rete di dettagli, di sibili, di scricchiolii, di “errori di sistema” che sembrerebbero appartenere alla sfera elettronica e che invece sono prodotti con maestria in modo acustico. Immersiva e affascinante contemplazione sonora.
by Enrico Bettinello (Italy, 06/2018)
The International Nothing is a psycho-acoustic clarinet duo formed by Michael Thieke and Kai
2000. They collectively compose multilayered sound sculptures using multiphonics, beat frequencies
and difference tones as an integral part of their language. The duo released four albums on the Japanese Ftarri Label and played concerts in Europe, Asia and North America....more