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Denman Maroney, whose technique has come to focus almost entirely on the interior of the piano. Hans Tammen, whose guitar has been seized, carried away from its familiar territories and reconstructed elsewhere…
Together, Maroney and Tammen work like grass in the sun, propagating in all directions, colonising scraps of fertile land, growing from the middle and springing up, unannounced, in seemingly impossible places. Their music is something like a piece of turf: chaotic on the surface with its forest of apparently separate details, interlinked underneath, woven together, again without structure or rationale, a maze of infinite complexity.
Ken Waxman, Jazzweekly 2000
Since sound explorers like the American Maroney and German Tammen have decided to devote their careers to inserting objects under a piano’s strung frame or radically detuning and reverse-engineering an electric guitar, they should really be celebrated for the new tones they create… Brave souls unafraid of adventure or “noise” will follow this Billabong into the uncharted waters to see what adventure results…
Brian Marley, Avant Magazine 2001
‘Stud’, the first track on Billabong, begins with a measure of ragtime, but this is immediately rendered abstract and non-referential: Tammen cuts it short with a chordal squeal, and Maroney briefly adopts the guitarist’s choppy, off-kilter phrasing before drawing the chords into Feldmanian spaciousness; then he sets off on an adjacent track like a runaway train. Whereas Tammen tends to cram brief and disparate ideas into a short space of time, Maroney’s ideas evolve slowly, gradually.
Stephen Koenig, JazzWeekly 2000
When I saw this in the mail, I burst out laughing and said to myself, “Brilliant! A natural pairing.” Having seen each in performance, and on their previous discs, I knew to expect players who as partners are listeners, and as creators, are so in touch with their respective instruments (“touch” being the signifier) that they are one.
Billabong is a dauntingly brainy micro-sound improv duo… (Nick Cain, Opprobrium 2001)
So this duo is a dream team for fans of prepared instruments. (Phillip McNally, Cadence Magazine 2001)
Maroney and Tammen form a duo that makes an excellent team in the short time of their collaboration. They listen to each other, pay attention to the ideas of the other while they pause, and then pick them up and develop them. The improvisations in the first set seem to be as compact and flowing as a composition. Watching them is as captivating as listening, because it reveals how this stream of unheard sounds is being created. One recognizes the humorous element in some choices of tools, and observes the concentration of the two musicians, diving into their just emerging own work. (Giessener Allgemeine 1999)
[Stephen Koenig on All About Jazz chose this recording as one of the ten best CD´s of the year 2000…]
[Gino Robair on the “Bayimproviser´s Favourite Discs Site” chose this recording as a fascinating new release of the year 2000…]
Dialogisiert wird über die Ausreizung von Kontrasten ebenso ausgebufft wie in statisch mystischer… Hier gehen zwei Freigeister ans Eingemachte, scheren sich nicht um Konventionen oder Formalismen, sondern ergeben sich der Sucht nach Klängen. Diese ziehen den Hörenden in einen Strudel von höchster Ereignisdichte. (JazzLive 2001)
Richard Cochrane, CD Liner Notes
Denman Maroney, whose technique has come to focus almost entirely on the interior of the piano. He has mapped his territory, paced it out and demarcated it with numerous vehicles – his bars, bowls, knives, blocks, boxes, bottles, mallets, mashers, bells and Ebows. Yet he is still enchanted by it and still capable of being surprised by its contours. Hans Tammen’s guitar has been seized, carried away from its familiar territories and reconstructed elsewhere, according to no particular rules besides the rigors of what needs to be done. He is an unusually meticulous player whose work seems aimed at the guitar itself, a de-invention of the thing not by dismantling any physical object but by reverse-engineering its sound-world, breaking it up into strings, pickups, wood, effects, possibilities, whispers. The clock and schlip and crack of wood, the bleep and squirt of electronics.
Glen Astarita, All About Jazz 2001
This new release titled, Billabong presents the listener with a series of duets by two eminent improvisers who pursue relatively unusual implementations as Denman Maroney mans the “hyperpiano” in concert with Hans Tammen’s permutations on the “endangered guitar”. With this effort, the duo converges for eight pieces that might depict some sort of bizarre and thoroughly imaginative musings among creatures from outer space as the musicians offer a very special language atop seemingly uncontrollable path of improvisational deconstruction. On the opening track “Stud”, Tammen performs scathing lines amid disjointed sequences of maniacal interaction with Maroney’s percussive block chords and somewhat patented techniques and explorations from within the inner workings of his piano. Here, the musicians explore ethereal yet roughly hewn soundscapes, in conformance with their protean statements an frenetic interplay. Yet on “Bog”, Tammen produces a horde of downright eerie tones on his amplified ax, which elicits imagery of something intangible yet imminently catastrophic. Whereas on “Jag”, the twosome renders a motif that could signify a schizophrenic or warped tiptoe waltz, accelerated by Tammen’s strange articulations that sound like tape loops replayed in reverse. Maroney launches an attack on his detuned piano strings yet counters with a humorous sonata on “Bounce”. – Throughout, the duo elicits a distinct sense of playful mayhem via their nearly indescribable methods of execution and often mind-bending yet incredibly seductive improvisations.
Stephen Loewy, GetMusic 2001
A duo album featuring two of the extremists of modern improvisation, Denman Maroney (on hyperpiano) and Hans Tammen (on “endangered” guitar), there is enough wildly subversive heat to easily keep the listener’s attention for the more than an hour of recording time. What distinguishes these two manipulators is the way in which they use external objects to affect the sound of the strings. Here, they play alongside one another (as opposed to with each other), and the results are uniformly fascinating. Neither totally eschews modern improvisational techniques, but what makes this endeavor unusual is the emphasis on all sorts of seemingly arbitrary sounds not always customarily identified with the particular instrument. The eight pieces, with titles such as “Stud,” “Bog,” and “Scratch,” ignore melody completely, but do not dismiss musicality. Volume and velocity, as with everything else, follow little in the way of established signposts. Surprises abound, and that, at least, should keep the listener coming back for more.