Sunday, June 7, 2009

Germ Studies, live at Ausland in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg

Germ Studies is an Australian duo made up of Chris Abrahams on a DX7 synthesizer and Berlin-based Clare Cooper on a zither-like instrument called a guzheng. I was fortunate enough to see them perform at Ausland in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg on 4 June.

Opening is Organ-Off, whose more domineering half, Thomas Meadowcroft, overshadows his partner Magda Mayas. Through a series of seemingly planned false starts, their discordance is well measured, but nonetheless a sorry preview for the headliner.

Sitting audience-level following the opening duo's sprawl of six keyboards and synthesizers on stage, Germ Studies proceeded to play a number of pieces--some improvised, some taken from their newly released double CD, GERM STUDIES for guzheng & DX7.

Germ Studies' music is a conversation in time. The ages of the musicians, like that of their instruments, play into this recurring theme. Their eyes rarely meeting, they set to work extracting the most delicate noises as possible from their respective instruments. The result? Partly soundtrack to a digital planet, partly a study on the permanence of music.

While Abrahams' programmed synth carries the audience from thudding depths to painful and instantaneous highs, Cooper's guzheng morphs from ancient acoustic to space-age and back, played masterfully with fingers, palms, and drum sticks. Their mature and entirely accessible music resonates well with the German and American audience; given the experimental nature of the show, those gathered at Ausland are impressive in their knowledge and engagement.

Words: Nicholas Wells

Photo: Glenn O'Malley, from Clare Cooper's website.

Cool Tunes:

Germ Studies, Germ Studies for Guthberg and DX7, Splitrec, 2009.