Heaven And - Bye And Bye I'm Going To See The King

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FILE UNDER: Imaginary Voodoo Spell


Tony Buck (The Necks)
Martin Siewert (Trapist)
Steve Heather (Efzeg)
zeitblom (Pole Band)

Towards the end of a long journey, one starts to look forward to coming
home. A similar feeling might be experienced by musicians who have spent
years engaging themselves in artistic utopias, explored new fusion
styles and investigated modern production tools and found themselves
glued to a computer in the process. After all these years, these
musicians might have developed a certain craving to once more play in a
sturdy, sweaty, hands-on live band (with a keen drive to create
something new, of course).

"Heaven And is a band which does not recoil from obvious musical
references", guitarist Martin Siewert remarks. "It's this approach alone
that distinguishes us from the majority of projects in the field of
improvised music." Siewert's partner in production and bass player
zeitblom adds: "To let our joint musical backgrounds flow into this
music is a vital part of the concept. Thus, ideas from archaic blues,
psychedelic rock, Sun Ra's Arkestra and Miles Davis' electric jazz are
fused. We have isolated the individual influences from their original
context and put them into a new musical environment." The bold play
with homages and codes is very risky, but then the individualists who
make up Heaven And are experienced enough to dodge all snares and
springs of the bland musical quotation. And even if the listener might
find a lot of stylistic devices and fragments which sound (deceptively)
familiar - Heaven And's second album simply cannot be attributed to any

Earthy bottleneck guitar licks or wailing lap steel harmonies are
occasional references to folk and blues, yet they're only an acoustic
sheet lightning on a heaven in which - occasionally - violins play on
cloud nine. But the delicately tared string quartet does not emanate an
acoustic cotton wool cloud cosiness. Rather, it's a precisely
accentuated "European" counterpoint to those seemingly primeval American
motifs. A similar ying and yang is evident in the sometimes
deliberately jarring, then again almost seamless juxtaposition of
acoustic and programmed sounds. From the hovering clouds and walls of
sound generated by keyboards or an organ unexpectedly emerges a
percussive pulse. Digital sizzling, throbbing and clicking stand in
contrast to melodic guitar mantras. Monolithic bass patterns mutate into
thunderous noise attacks. Electronic tweeting reminds one of flicking
across the dial of an analogue radio. Massive layers of chords develop
the sinister and gorgeous force of a stream of lava. Dark drum patterns,
ritualistic trance grooves or the evident use of snare drum and cymbals
are proof of drummers Tony Buck and Steve Heather sure feeling for magic
rhythms and associative counterpoints. In other passages, the band goes
without beats - which gives the music a more cinematic feel.

The suggestive quality of music is something that the distinguished
instrumentalists of Heaven And have been aware of for years. For
example, Martin Siewert has worked with director Gustav Deutsch, while
bassist zeitblom developed several projects for radio with author and
director Michael Farin. He also composed for Jiri Bartovanec, a dancer
from the ensemble of Sasha Waltz. A radio production for the WDR about
pop icon Aleister Crowley turned out to be the starting point for the
band. zeitblom had worked with all three musicians before, yet never as
a quartet.
For the Crowley radio play, he brought the musicians together as a band
for the first time. "It was fascinating seeing how the drummers hit it
off from the first", zeitblom remembers the essential success of the
freshly founded band. In addition to the music for the radio play, the
band also forged their debut album "Sweeter As The Years Roll By"
(staubgold 87 CD/DL/LP) from sketches and live sessions in 2008.

For the album "Bye And Bye I?m Going To See The King" once again live
improvisations were used as basis. In contrast to the debut album, these
were processed and edited more thoroughly. Siewert and zeitblom
meticulously honed these recordings into an album with a most singular
aesthetic over a period of one and a half years. Among other things,
they used manual processes employed by the pioneers of dub reggae. Some
passages were skeletonised; single sound fragments were then
mysteriously redyed by means of computer based sound processing or
augmented with newly played overdubs. Says Siewert: "We regard the
interventions in the studio not only as a legitimate but in some
instances downright creative means in the creation of a well moulded
album." With this statement, Siewert also defines a clear dividing line
between the detailed production of an album and the music's spontaneous
and raw presentation on stage. Compared to the debut, the rhythms of
this second session were a lot more varied even in their basic form.
Nevertheless, on some tracks Siewert and zeitblom heavily manipulated
the drum tracks and then asked Tony Buck and Steve Heather to overdub
additional percussive motifs. "Some passages sounded quite good but
were eliminated in the process of the production in order to keep the
music alive and not to make it too condensed", explains zeitblom.

After all this processing and editing, all six tracks on the album now
develop sublime arcs of suspense, sudden changes in dynamic and an
intensity which at times almost assaults the listener. "We wanted to add
distinctive melodies to the prominent grooves" explains Siewert. "Apart
from that we wanted to intersperse the subtly nuanced passages with
clear-cut, palpable statements." Guest pianist Ali N. Askin (who has
been vitally involved in the Ensemble Modern's Zappa projects) arranged
the string quartet, trumpet maverick Franz Hautzinger contributed
abstract sounds, while Michael Weilacher completed the rhythmic
structures with additional marimba or vibraphone patterns.

On stage, Heaven And will continue to play as a quartet - without guests
or sounds from computer or sampler. Only analogue electronics such as
ring modulators, feedback generators, oscillators or loop machines will
be employed to augment the original sounds of guitars, bass, drums and
percussion. In comparison with the album, this live sound can be a lot
coarser and more ferocious. "Usually we play a high level programme with
excessive improvisations", promises Siewert.

In contrast to his work with the band Trapist (where he plays with
Martin Brandlmayr and Joe Williamson), in Heaven And Martin Siewert
deliberately flirts with cross-references from the history of (popular)
music - and not just in his playing: "Both albums are named after songs
by Blind Willie Johnson." This relatively obscure bluesman wrote the
legendary slide guitar composition "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The
Ground", which Ry Cooder chose as his leitmotif for the soundtrack to
Wim Wenders' movie "Paris-Texas". Decades ago, NASA chose the song as
the representative of popular music of the 20th century for a record
which was included on board the Voyager spacecraft. "But ultimately, our
music reminds me more of Haitian voodoo masses than of classic blues
from Texas", muses Siewert. "In any case, it reminds me of an archaic
spirit and unadulterated, transcendental energy."


2008 Sweeter As The Years Roll By CD/DL/LP (staubgold 87)
2010 Bye And Bye I'm Going To See The King CD/DL/LP (staubgold 98)


01. Babylon
02. Bye And Bye I'm Going To See The King
03. Om
04. Blue, Even
05. When The Roll Is Called
06. Earth Magic