President Of The Globe
President Of The Globe


I received a small packet - sender unknown, just as unknown to me was the name of what at first I thought to be the name of the group that had recorded the CD: President Of The Globe. Reading the liner notes to the CD (written in English) I soon learned that President Of The Globe was the inscription on the coffin of Velimir Chlebnikov (1885-1922), the Russian poet who had co-authored the manifest of the St. Petersburg's Futurists called A Slap In The Face Of The Public Taste; his poetry is put into music on this CD.

Here we have five musicians: Tobias Klein on clarinets, alto sax and live-electronics; Albert van Veenendaal on piano (also prepared) and sampler; Meinrad Kneer on double bass (those three being the writers of all the music); also Elisa Roep, a classically trained soprano, and the more informal, colloquial vocal style of Alec Kopyt. Upon first listening, the album sounded very interesting to me, even if I needed to subtly adjust my attitude: classically trained female vocalists are not automatically my cup of favourite beverage, plus the singing approach on the part of the male vocalist, at times sardonic, at times mysterious, made me think I really had to have a look at the lyrics (no problem here: of course, they were featured inside the CD booklet, right?). The players were really excellent, brilliantly capable of doing justice to all the styles on the album (and there are lots of them!). The shock arrived when I discovered that the featured texts were only available in: the original Russian version; translated into Dutch and German. And now...?

Come to think of it, from Gangsta-Rap to Japanese-Pop, it's not that the understanding of the lyrics is something that we take absolutely for granted in order to appreciate the music; what's more, I know lotsa people who have never bothered to open a CD booklet to see whether the lyrics are included (and, provided they were, tried translating them); but a (so-called) critic must use a different set of rules, right? Many listening sessions later, I decided that,  with just a couple of exceptions, the album could be appreciated even if the lyrics were not understood. Fans of the "East European" styles of Rock In Opposition will find something they already know in the track Gagagaga (for this writer, it's the only weak track on the album). The mix of classical-chamber music, elements of jazz and sparks of improvisation - everything brilliantly supported by a crystal-clear recorded sound - makes it easy to enjoy the voices in their timbral side. As partial exceptions I'll mention: the male voice on Zazov, where my curiosity about what was being said distracted me quite often; the narration in De Vogels, where (what to me sounded like) an oscillator appeared to want to replicate the sounds of birds; and in Blagovest Umu (is it really about a clock?).

The singers being agile and versatile, the compositional and playing sides are excellent: check the intricate atmosphere in Grashupfer, where we have a very beautiful clarinet solo; the melodic theme in Van Blauwige, and the double bass solo which follows. I was pleased to hear what to me sounded like an echo of Braxton in Wenn Pferde sterben, where Tobias Klein plays the alto saxophone. I really have to point out the maturity and complexity (and the way it all sounds so natural!) of the writing in Sie!, a track which is introduced by a bass clarinet and a noisy sampler, where bits of Ellingtonia are followed by a melodic vocal phrase which sounds as having been put together by Phillip Glass, and later by an animated conversation between piano and double bass; and in Litso, where a folk-sounding vocal theme is followed by a relaxed trio of clarinet-piano-double bass.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2006 | Sept. 9, 2006