With all the press that the Vienna electro-acoustic scene has (deservedly) received over the past couple years – thanks largely to the taste-making Thrill Jockey's decision to record both Trapist and Radian – one of the city's finest ensembles, Efzeg, has sort of slipped through the cracks. Though they have moved from Durian (Grain) to Grob (Boogie) and now to Christof Kurzmann's Charhizma imprint, Efzeg's lineup has remained consistent, including Martin Siewert (guitar, lapsteel, electronics), Burkhard Stangl (guitar), Boris Hauf (saxophones and electronics), Dieb 13 (turntables, electronics), and Billy Roisz (visuals and, for the first time on this release, “electronic and acoustic instruments").
As on previous recordings, the heart of the band seems to be in the exchange between guitarists Stangl and Siewert. Stangl is one of those players who's almost immediately recognizable but who, in group-improvising contexts, nonetheless manages to surprise continually. Here he plucks out abstracted shapes, chooses exactly the right notes to ring querulously in the tone field, and does it all while displaying admirable restraint. Siewert, on the other hand, plays with a more laminal approach; that is, he uses drones and various electronic devices to spread his sound about, almost serving as a bridge to Hauf's and Dieb 13's more abstract electronics creations. And yet this group wouldn’t be Efzeg without the strange interruptions – a percussive crash, a sudden irruption of feedback, or an eldritch vocal sample, many of which likely come from Dieb 13's turntables – that prevent lyrical stasis from settling in.
The first two tracks, which blend together in suite-like fashion, are fine introductions to the group. "Günz In" and "Günz Dis" shimmer, the sonic equivalent of sunlight playing atop waves. For fans of the dark Viennese melancholy, go no further than the central track "Riss", which features an extremely somber progression that emerges from a chorus of noises which sound like metal plates being rubbed together forcefully (over time, this cedes brilliantly into a cool waterfall noise). On "Mindel Ena" the group is joined by Steve Heather (who contributes one of the mini-discs to the fine Berlin Drums release on Absinth, a series that should be promptly investigated). And the title track finale ("Würm") is a bit odd, combining extremely high pitches (almost sine waves) with an almost Eno-like bed of electronics.
If anything, Würm continues too consistently in the vein of previous Efzeg albums; it doesn't possess quite as much variety in itself as one might like. This might not be the best place to get started with Efzeg. But by all means, get started somewhere.
Jason Bivins, dusted magazine