Didi Kern & Philipp Quehenberger, Vienna Rhiz, 11 January 2012

My first concert of 2012 was a quintessentially Viennese experience, being a loud, lengthy and largely improvised set for keyboards and percussion by two of this city’s leading musicians, held at that hotbed of experimental music, the Rhiz. The performance had a slight edge over the last time I saw this duo play at Shelter, since this time Didi Kern & Philipp Quehenberger sensibly refrained from introducing any guest musicians and did all the playing themselves. What resulted was an insanely dense black hole of sound that couldn’t help but suck in everything around it. (It was noticeable, by the way, how well attended this concert was compared to that Shelter gig in the summer. It’s depressing to think that this was probably because last week’s gig was more actively pushed on Facebook, and also because it was at the übercool Rhiz rather than the unfashionable, out-of-the-way Shelter. I don’t find out about gigs on Facebook and I also don’t go to a gig just because it’s at a certain venue, but maybe that’s just me.)

Kern’s drumming becomes more miraculous every time I see him play, from the dizzy interlocking rhythms he creates to the precision with which he limns vast areas of space and silence. Quehenberger, for his part, came over like some permanently distracted machinist. Looming over his synthesizer, occasionally firing a caustic glance in the audience’s direction, his seeming nonchalance and the fag drooping from the corner of his mouth were belied by the endless flow of trancelike analogue tones. More than once I was reminded of the stupendous 70s records of Tangerine Dream with their crystalline vistas of sound. The forceful presence of the drummer, however, served to push Quehenberger’s rippling melodies well away from ambient territory and into a clattering, visionary set of impulses. A stunning performance and a great way to kick off what promises to be a busy few months of live music in Vienna.

Some excellent photos of the evening by David Murobi here.

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