Our music has been described as evocative, disturbing, dreamlike, and most of all - highly unique - even to audiences with a huge amount of exposure to noise, electronic, & experimental music.
Our friend Scott Smallwood http://www.music.princeton.edu/~skot/main.html came down to Baltimore and recorded us in a large empty warehouse space and stair-well in 2004. The resulting recordings were put out as our first record - 5025 AD on Ehse Records with beautiful covers and labels designed by Dan Breen.
Baltimore City Paper
Baltimore experimental music has always condoned drone. But unlike rock and jazz, which seek levitation somewhere along an asymptotic two-dimensional curve approaching axes of repetition and reverberation, homegrown “Om” tones find it in the off-kilter, offhand, and just plain off. Until now. The all-acoustic Trockeneis—bowed metal men Dan Breen and Andy Hayleck, vocalist Audrey Chen, percussionist Paul Niedhardt, and dry-ice sorceress Catherine Pancake—plumbs cavernous spaces, creating something ominous in its sparse, thoughtful take on extended drone.
Its 5025 AD debut LP out on Stewart Mostofsky’s democratically esoteric Ehse imprint features five pieces, each feeling almost like an afterthought if you put it on at a normal volume level—you know, what the stereo/iPod/headphones are usually set to, enough to enjoy but not too much to annoy the neighboring co-worker/apartment dweller/public transportation rider. At such volume Trockeneis sounds like insects having a rather boring discussion. Only when you turn 5025 AD up does it reveal its ominous secrets.
The three cuts on the B-side capture the quintet in miniature. The first piece slowly oozes its tense timbres, with Breen and Hayleck’s bowed metal growling like a troll’s angry stomach. Chen’s indubitably nimble voice is set to creepshow here, her angelic tones bubbling out of a hovering murk on the second track and then quickly transmogrifying into choked, piercing notes and sotto voce screams. Pancake’s dry-ice gymnastics—at times she wiggles out muffled peals like an asthmatic aspirating from a trumpet, at others shooting high-pitched pains—tumble around Chen’s haunting voice with Niedhardt’s percussion walking with a beautifully awkward, John Cage-ian gait.
The quintet hits its spooky peak with the extended second track on the A-side, a 14-minute and change descent into organic skin-crawling. The bowed metal sustains a horror-movie anxiety with steady vibrato. Pancake and Niedhardt cast off viscous globs of sound. And Chen exhales a constant moan that sounds like a steady wind whistling through the baseboards of a farmhouse. The whole thing imperceptibly amplifies until that constant breeze intensifies into a destructive force. And then Pancake melts long-winded squeals that cause everybody to fade out slowly, ending with elusive sounds chopping out anxious rumbling like thunder from a faraway storm. You know, when you see lightning’s capillary white streaks varicose the bruised sky and you hear it a few breaths later, the time in between getting shorter and shorter, and you realize the worst is still to come.
Links to Trockeneis Songs
We've been honored and thrilled to play at these venues so far: Princeton University, Bard College, Peabody Conservatory, An Die Musik, Issue Project Room, The Rotunda in Philly, Flywheel in North Hampton, and ArtScape 2006. We will be playing at the Richmond Noise Festival on 10-15-06.
Trockeneis Lite (which can be any subset of Trockeneis, in this case - audrey and catherine) took the principles of Trockeneis including dry ice and extreme vocal techniques to Asia in 2004 performing to enthusiastic and quizical audiences at The Taipei National School for the Art - Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai Conservatory - Shanghai, ROC; The International House - Tokyo, Japan, as part of a performance collaboration with Laure Drogoul, Naoko Maeshiba, and Mami Takahashi.
Born quite impromptu during a live improv set performed for the Peadbody Conservatory student body in spring 2004, the Baltimore quintet, Trockeneis, has since been generating excitement in the East Coast improv/experimental music scene. The group is comprised of a core group of Baltimore improvisers each who brings great passion and musical subtlety to create a truly unique sound/improv experience. A combination of highly idiosyncratic instrumentation, focused, mature musicianship and ego-free, risk-taking group dynamics promise to make this group known on a national level. The group has definite roots in lowercase improv, but grows rapidly beyond that creating complex, rich soundscapes rooted in a true spirit of experimentation.
Paul Neidhardt , percussion
Paul Neidhardt is a very accomplished rock, jazz, free jazz and experimental percussionist from the Baltimore MD area. He performs in a variety of musical projects. His ability to trade extremely tight traditional chops with very focused sound-oriented techniques such a doweling, bowing, suction etc has made him a favorite in improv circles.
Dan Breen , bowed metal
Dan Breen is an well-known multi-instrumentalist in Baltimore and other East Coast cities. His wandering, eccentric style of playing and living brings joy to the many who know and love him. He performs with a range of musical projects from the funk band, The Financial Group, to the un-categorizable and tasty electronics/drums group - Snacks. He also plays bass in the Baltimore Afro-Beat Society devoted to performing and preserving the music of Fela Kuti.
Andrew Hayleck , bowed metal
Andy Hayleck is quickly becoming a nationally known sound artist and musician. His extensive touring and field-recordings (ice, crabs etc) are well-known in experimental music scenes across the US. He has performed in local and national festivals and participated in radio broadcasts in the US and GB. Andy is also a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Andy’s field recording of natural ice formations was selected in Art Forums Top 10 art music records in 2004.
Catherine Pancake , dry ice
Catherine Pancake is a film-maker, musician, and cultural organizer based in Baltimore MD. Her films have been shown nationally at the Philadelphia International Film Festival, Millenium Theater - NYC, Contemporary Museum - Baltimore, Ohio State University, VA Tech, and more. As a musician she has traveled internationally in Asia (Shanghai Conservatory ROC, Taipei National School for the Arts, International House Tokyo) and Canada collaborating with Audrey Chen, Susan Alcorn, Le Quan Ninh, Oluyemi Thomas, and the group Trockeneis. She is a founding member of the RedRoom Collective, High Zero Foundation, Charm City Kitty Club (GLBT arts venue,) and the Transmodern Festival http://www.transmodernage.com.
Audrey Chen , voice
Using her trusty cello, self-styled vocal techniques and ever surprising content/concepts, Audrey Chen has emerged as one of the most vital experimental free-improvisers in the United States and beyond. She has toured extensively around the world bringing her sounds and intuition to Poland, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, China, Japan, and the United States. Among musicians, she has worked with many great improvisers, including Phil Minton, Alessandro Bosetti, Mike Cooper, Mats Gustafsson, Sten Sandell, Mazen Kerbaj, Jaap Blonk, Michael Zerang, Tony Buck, Tatsuya Nakatani, Assif Tsahar, Scott Rosenberg, Le Quan Ninh, Joe Mcphee, Susan Alcorn, Michele Doneda, Paolo Angeli, and Gianni Gebbia. Some current projects include: duo projects with Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion) and Gianni Gebbia (saxophone) from Palermo, Sicily, Trockeneis (Baltimore’s power quintet), and a new trio (SILO) with Nate Wooley and Leonel Kaplan (trumpets). Recent performances have included a duo tour with Nakatani through China and Japan celebrating the release of their new duo CD, LIMN. www.hhproduction.org. Also, Chen has just returned from touring solo and with Gebbia and SILO through Europe in February/March. Some upcoming engagements include, a USA tour with SILO and a tour through China, Japan and Taiwan with Bosetti later in 2006.
….Other writings about Trockeneis
Michael Anton Parker:Bagatellen web site: I don't intend to say anything profound here, but earlier tonight I experienced a performance that compelled me to make a brief observation, a platitude worth savoring if you will.
Sometimes we experience something that seems to follow from nothing, some segment of transcendence that couldn't've been predicted, feels unrepeatable, and is perhaps even unidentifiable once the moments are over. Flukes. We walk away with a peak of elation gradually receding into our daily life. We feel lucky to have been privy to that point in space-time. We may think the particular musicians are really quite talented in some way or another, that we can almost expect them to make these experiences happen. We may feel they are the ones we ought to gamble on listening to again sometime. But ultimately a sobering voice in our head acknowledges that it will never happen again. Doubts about attribution may ensue: maybe we were just in the right mood to hear it in such a rapturous way; maybe it was the composing-listener and not the composing-soundmaker who made it happen?
Often enough, free improvisors play in a configuration more than once. If a person or group makes this sort of thing happen and we attend another performance by them sometime, we want it to happen again, but we have to be content expecting something sort of in the ballpark to happen, because plainly the incalculably large odds are that it will never happen again. It's intrinsic to free improvisation. This knowledge may even feel like a faint blemish on that repeat encounter.
So here's what actually happens on rare and memorable occasions. It happens again. The same people and sound tools making different sound events, but once again, it. We fumble in the self-played game of expectations. We know it's theoretically possible for it to happen again. We wonder if this musician or group has achieved some kind of abstract repeatability, despite all absurd odds against it. We think of them as an entity independent of individual performances. Of course this is a standard conceptualization for non-free-improvised music, but repeatability is some negative essence of free improvisation. Each performance is created anew.
In other words, tonight I noticed that free improvisation is a wondrous thing because it potentially allows us to re-experience the most exciting thing possible: something experienced as unrepeatable. Probably this thought seems trite for any habitual listener of free improvisation, but this way of making music seems miraculous to me when this truth is verified by a lived experience. In my present state of awe I cannot take this phenomenon for granted, though perhaps I usually do.
My intention is to just make this brief observation, not issue a concert report, but let me attach a name to the event that triggered it, for the sake of tangibility and documentation. It's a group called Trockeneis from Baltimore. The members are Audrey Chen, Catherine Pancake, Andy Hayleck, Dan Breen, and Paul Neidhardt. They mainly use voice, dry ice, bowed metal, rubbed dowels, some other frictionally activated surfaces, and occasional struck small objects. I've long harbored an urge to write at least twenty pages accounting for their revolutionary aesthetic and unfailingly repeated transcendence-making, not to mention the vast virtues of each of these five individuals, but that will have to wait till another day because I insist on making a non-delayed entry to this space. I will turn towards sleep in a few minutes with no ambition to speak further on tonight's re-Trockeneis-ing, instead just thankful that free improvisation is part of my life for a reason I hope others are interested in.
My photographs from a few hours ago are too lousy to publish, so here is a photograph of Catherine Pancake playing dry ice during the previous Trockeneis concert I attended on November 11th, 2005 at The Red Room in Baltimore. In the background is Sebastian Cirotteau. He was visiting from France and performed with Trockeneis; his contribution was impeccable, yet fairly inconsequential; Audrey Chen wasn't in this performance because she was on tour somewhere on the other side of the planet. Different sound events for sure, but it happened again that time. It's only fitting to depict my previous Trockeneis experience in this context, because the big news is it happened again tonight. If my offhand count is correct, this was the tenth time it happened again for me because of Trockeneis. The first time was sometime in the Fall of 2004. Needless to say, a second time is the stuff spasms of fanhood are made of, so a tenth time is worth mentioning, at the very least.
The wonders of this thing we call free improvisation owe as much to repeatable group chemistry as Sir Bailey's famed situational renewal.