First of all, there are questions where one expects titles. Such as Wohin? ("Where?"), or Wozu – und wieso nicht? ("Why – and why not?"). Neither the direction nor the purpose of the journey seems certain. And later on, where the titles no longer end with a question mark, enigmatic images await us instead. In the seventh number, for example, a triangle encounters a carpet, while the ninth offers an hourglass without any sand.
But the accordionist Hans Hassler doesn’t come across as broodily uncertain on his new CD, entitled wie die zeit hinter mir her (“Like the time behind me”), released on the Zurich label Intakt Records. No, he approaches us as someone keen to guide his listeners zestfully along the winding paths of his musical topography. This is a world that has grown over the decades, one in which Hassler keeps crossing the boundaries between folk music and jazz, and where the sedimentary layers of his experience have culminated in a wholly idiosyncratic idiom. There’s little that’s predictable here.
A dramaturgy in sound – tracing narratives
Hassler offers melodies that seem like tracks in the ground, pointing us in a particular direction, but which then meander back to their starting point, ramifying and fraying at the edges. These tracks become textures, and the melodies tangle themselves up into balls of sound. If our accordionist studiously seems to trace out something approaching a narrative, we can be sure that in the next moment he will mischievously and simply wash over it again with his mighty sounds.
The dramaturgical twists and turns here might be surprising, but Hassler’s sonic resources are no less varied. He does not just play by contrasting and confronting the extreme registers of his instrument – with a dizzily high, pure treble played off against hoarse, mumbling basses – for his sonic spectrum stretches much further. Keys clatter, the instrument snorts impetuously, and craggy, delirious pulsations create an inhospitable terrain.
The “Accor-demon” makes the music
The recording engineer Willy Strehler has achieved an idiosyncratic, enchantingly corporeal quality here – and it prompts one to ask just whose body is actually at work: that of the instrumentalist, or that of his instrument? In fact, it’s presumably the Accor-demon, who gives his name to the 13th (!) piece on the CD, and whom one imagines to be a strange, seldom-encountered intermeshing of man and instrument. Or, to put it in more concrete terms: it is our accordionist here with his instrument, who in the 15 pieces of wie die zeit hinter mir her leads us now mischievously, now contemplatively, mightily yet tenderly, edgily, noisily and yet with a sturdy pulse, along ever-new paths through the ever-familiar yet ever-surprising universe of Hans Hassler.
wie die zeit hinter mir her, Hans Hassler: Akkordeon solo,
Intakt Records, CD 288 / 2017.