Hampl Reber Reuter Calabrese






The Premise: Yttrium Microlensing, Violent Foliage

Exedra is a six-track recording comprising of a dynamic live performance by the quartet of Hampl Reber Reuter Calabrese that was recorded in February 2014 and now sees the light of day in a carefully mastered version in October 2015. Digitally released on Iapetus and available to buy and fully stream at their Bandcamp-powered Store, this work showcases the compositional craftsmanship and incidental skills of the gentlemen involved, some of them frequently featured here at AmbientExotica: bass guitarist and Tibetan bowl expert Jochen “Yoshi” Hampl from Austria, live drummer, music lecturer and synthesist Tobias Reber from Switzerland, renowned touch guitarist Markus Reuter from Germany, and flügelhorn/trumpet advocate Luca Calabrese from Italy. Many of the micro melodies, sizzling segues and volatile vignettes happen by pure chance, but there are recurrent themes on a per-song basis as well as textural markers throughout the album. But what could Exedra possibly be about? Frequent Iapetus designer Ritxi Ostariz’s illustration gives the slightest hints about the album being fond of Atlantic woods and tropical rain forests. The track titles themselves don’t refer to this observation at all, therefore making it a mirage, euphemistically speaking. And yet do I feel that the six tracks of Exedra feature foliage, recycled rhizomes and organic matter aplenty. Vestiges of Exotica become entangled with synthetic syncytiums, raucous touch guitars encounter Ambient veils. The stylistic particularities are further carved out below; as ususal, they can only be approximated, and the reasons for this are delineated as well.

Mesozoic Thickets & Chlorotic Coppices

A forest comprises of bosky and lacunar elements, filled rooms and empty spaces; otherwise, it would simply be a wall of bricks or a planar surface. The reason for this faux-erudite lecture is mirrored in Exedra where the tropics of the mind are forested in varying growth levels. The crop-mark of the second track Delta, for instance, is fond of equilibrioception by featuring a well-balanced titration of sound, sustain and silence. The beginning is hued in blue nostalgia as Luca Calabrese’s trumpet protrudes both the mucous mica and Jochen Hampl’s bass guitar rhizomes. A cautious amount of reverb during the Ambient prelude proposes (to) a glade or opening. As soon as Tobias Reber’s synth-oid – and ogival – interfering field comes into play and is coupled with a sweetly shuffling maraca surfactant and laid-back beat innuendo, the bolerolicious friar’s lantern is complete. Zeta and Alpha I are then different sides of the single wooden coin: whereas the former is a legato-oriented Ambient piece and consequentially shows a thickly vegetated grove by means of tawny aureoles, vitreous Angkor Wat chimes of mysticism and adiabatic trumpet coils, Alpha I is a different juggernaut altogether and rolls along with its breakbeat physiognomy right from the get-go. Attrition and gridlock are united in a piece that becomes increasingly apoplectic and willfully discordant, with each additional layer – such as Markus Reuter’s incisive touch guitar – hinting at an increasingly alkaloidal forest. This is neither a disneyfied jungle nor a Lovecraftian locale; Exedra is situated somewhere in-between, all the time, forever.

Metalization As Metabolism

What drives the living organism that is Exedra? Which conditions keep it alive? Isn’t it just music? It turns out that the underbrushes are drenched in a hydrogen ion concentration that oscillates between both ends of the spectrum, but never hits the magical seven which humans so admire as their preferred pH value. What seems like an imbalanced kaleidoscope is much more counterbalanced. As an example, the discords of the opener Jota are comparatively benign: the retinue of demonic Hammond organ synths, sunset guitars and ophidian hi-hats spawns pictures of Tahitian suprematism, Laotian lozenges and Carlsbad’s cave pearls all at once. Rhythm-shifting pyrethrin, a lycopod whose silvery glow eventually leads to a crimson red aposematism, and screeching brass elements that mimic the cries of jungle birds: Jota has them all. And this isn’t even iconoclasm; it’s business as usual. The aforementioned Alpha I must be brought up once more in order to digest a different amalgamation of metalized phytotelemata. While the constant drum centrioles are clearly in the limelight, it is the abrasive desiccation of Reuter’s touch guitar which detracts all the fresh and healthy water. This is all the more portentous as the beat-driven parallax layer comprises of liquid blebs and various droplets. Make no mistake though: throughout Exedra, the camphene-coated sequins and paraquat metallics win. You’re welcome.

Phototropism In The Concrete Jungle

Whenever there is a trumpet, flügelhorn or trombone in an Ambient work – which Exedra only embodies sequentially – various elements of film noir or cyberpunk swirl in the mephitic air, and these cinematic genres naturally take place in the big concrete jungle, not the natural origin one is seeking so often. The adaptation into music is often a delightful experience, and it is mirrored in both the true forests and high-rise cities: you are surrounded by, well, everything and everyone, but you’re alone at the end of the day. Zenjungle & Tunedin52’s Tales From Urban (2014) carried the flavor of the woods despite clearly taking place in municipal areas, and it so happens vice versa in Hampl Reber Reuter Calabrese’s Exedra which is certainly cursed with a tropical fever, but equally prone to ins(p)ect the city near its mis-chromsomed woods co(r)pses. In the end, all songs with Calabrese’s trumpet and flügelhorn are potential carriers of the urban feeling, and hectic it brings into the clavicular scenery alright. The brass instrument gyres, oscillates, whirls and flickers only to then become debonair, even pentatonic in certain instances. Reber’s hammonding organ grinds its way into the cochleae in a similar fashion and is equally drawn into the moonlit asphalt of the city. The closer Beta encapsulates this feeling of petrifying melancholia best: a saffron-colored beat that is suffering from sarcopenia sets the stage for emerald-glossy synthy guitar twangs which embrace the netherworld, but it is the organs and trumpets that remind of Jazz cellars, dark alleys, the smell of metropolis. Beta is delightfully laid-back, giving the improvisation room to breathe and escape from itself, letting it appear suave and well-controlled like the drawing boards of urban planners.

The Umbrageous Aftermath

Improvisation in music finds its related matter in nature which pieces its multitudinous elements together anew, and it is most often not what a horticultural soul has in mind. Similarly, the quartet of Hampl Reber Reuter Calabrese injects dissonant doldrums, cacophonous chloroderivatives, scything saprotrophs and molybdenized muons in order to build up the moxie megafauna. Exedra is an experimental work, but this adjective is as meaningless and superfluous nowadays as its antagonistic – but much more beloved – opponents such as the ever-embraced poppy or accessible. As a reviewer, it is hard to miss the forest for the trees… a most appropriate analogy in the given circumstances. The various trees, shrubberies and root crops the quartet has planted are altogether of a dismissive, repulsing and unapproachable fashion. They are chock-full with energy, thickly wadded in layers, the criss-cross strata lead to ancillary routes, then off beaten paths and finally into the momentary void. But as is the case with Tobias Reber’s and Markus Reuter’s band Centrozoon (stylized as centrozoon) which they form with their partner in crime Bernhard Wöstheinrich, the listener is advised to wade through abstract buildings and convoluted buildups in order to reach textures, surfaces and patterns that are utterly delightful and whose afterglow serves as a magnetotail for the whole track or even album. Centrozoon’s Boner (2012) is such a work, and Exedra similarly accomplishes a labyrinthine auditability that is hard to explain and possibly even harder to experience. But it’s worth the weathered music lover’s attention! Fans of Warp Records shall investigate, there’s even traces of Exotica in here, and most importantly: a catchy exocarp in every single tune. Mark my woods.

Further listening and reading: 


Ambient Review 453: Hampl Reber Reuter Calabrese – Exedra (2015). Originally published on Sep. 30, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.