Alchemy is an attempt to turn base metal into gold. That’s a bit like what clarinetist David Krakauer and pianist Kathleen Tagg have done with this release. Issuing a call for raw material, in the form of song ideas, from their various musical friends, they then gave each a treatment blending electronic with acoustic effects. You wouldn’t know it from listening, but each track is a mosaic of multiple electronic bits.
The Hammer is Tagg, an adept performer/engineer of the prepared piano who uses her experience in contemporary extended techniques to expand the instrument, unlocking its potential for sounds well beyond convention. Breath is supplied by Krakauer, who is possibly best known for his mastery of the klezmer style, although that is just one of the several musical hats he wears. Per The Wall Street Journal: “Krakauer… moves so seamlessly between different genres… you’d almost think there’s no appreciable difference between jazz, klezmer and formal classical music.”
You might categorize this as a jazz-coloured klezmer album, the experience elevated or transformed by virtue of the novel sounds produced by the two musicians. Both engage in beat-boxing, bouncing bops of sound out of the bodies of their instruments. Tagg gets inside the lid and draws a plectrum across the strings beyond the bridge, sending shivers up the spine. Soft-shoe breath effects alternate with pop bottle hoots in the intro of Rattlin’ Down the Road. Demon Chopper is great rapid-fire fun. Listen and wonder: “How’d they do that?”