The International Nothing (… and something)
The International Nothing (… and something)
Kai Fagaschinski | clarinet
Michael Thieke | clarinet
Christian Weber | double-bass
Eric Schaefer | drums & percussion
The Power Of Negative Thinking
formats: LP & CD
release date: June 2016
In case it doesn’t ring a bell, The International Nothing is the psycho-acoustic clarinet duo of Mr. Thieke and Mr. Fagaschinski. Since 2000 the two clarinetists have been collectively composing multilayered sound sculptures using multiphonics, beat frequencies and difference tones as an integral part of their unique language. They have released three duo albums on the Japanese Ftarri Label.
There have been collaborative extensions in the past – check out their avant pop band The Magic I.D. with Margareth Kammerer and Christof Kurzmann – and when they first met with drummer Eric Schaefer and bass player Christian Weber in 2006 it was obvious this was also asking to become a band on its own terms: The International Nothing (… and something).
Mr. Weber and Mr. Schaefer lent not only their individual instrumental skills to the fold – it was a true collective effort which brought these seven quartet compositions into being. And though you might regularly find each of the four musicians happily involved in context of improvised music, like anything previously produced by The Nothin’ the music heard here is precisely determined, created through an extensive process of rubbing sounds and ideas against each other, long before entering the stage or pressing the record button.
The aesthetic foundation of the clarinet duo is undeniable throughout the album, but Weber and Schaefer extend the sonic spectrum strikingly. The low end explorations of the bass and drums add a mysterious darkness. A moment of pulse is no longer provided solely as a secret message within the clarinet twin’s microtonal beatings. Rhythmical figures sneak in gently, and at times you may even be boldly struck by a shameless groove.
Name a band which sounds similar and you’ll win … something.
The International Nothing (… And Something)
Live at ausland, Berlin on December 14th, 2011. Videos by Christian Weber.
clarinet | composer/performer
*1974 Dannenberg (Germany)
The Berlin-based clarinetist focuses on a subtle musicality of sound and noise phenomena. As an autodidact he has developed an anomalous language on his instrument delicately exploring a wide range of multiphonics. His music is rooted in abstractness, including an insidious expressivity and a pre-melodic quality.
Current projects include The International Nothing, The Dogmatics (with Chris Abrahams), The Magic I.D. (song project with Margareth Kammerer, Christof Kurzmann and Michael Thieke), Musik (with Burkhard Stangl), Los Glissandinos (with Klaus Filip), The Elks (with Liz Allbee, Billy Roisz & Marta Zapparoli), and Berlin’s 24-piece Splitter Orchester.
drums | composition
*1976 Frankfurt/Main (Germany)
Eric Schaefer is not your common-or-garden drummer. His instrument is a formative element, Schaefer is an inventor, active and creative, and this is what makes him one of “the clandestine stars of the […] German jazz scene“ as Die Zeit writes. His range of musical forms of expression has many layers, as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes about this multifaceted and contemplative artist: “With improvisation as the backbone of their work, musicians like […] Eric Schaefer […] take it in any number of different directions with uncompromising vitality – free improvisations and classical composition, punk and varied folklore, new or minimal music, pop and electronic“. Whatever constellation he plays in, Schaefer leaves his personal mark on these bands with his compositions and versatile, extremely colourful, and distinctly individual style as heard on numerous records with artists like Michael Wollny, Joachim Kühn, etc..
clarinet | composer/performer
*1971 Düsseldorf (Germany)
The Berlin-based clarinetist/composer/performer Michael Thieke is equally at home across a broad range of musical environments, such as experimental song forms, collectively composing projects, improvising collectives, and music on the fringes of jazz. He is exploring the minutiae of sound, timbre and noise, with a particular interest in microtonality and related sound phenomena, and with a preference for long-term collaborations and collective work.
Some of his current Projects are: The International Nothing, The Pitch, Der lange Schatten, Voutchkova/Thieke, Splitter Orchester, motif, Porta Chiusa, The Magic I.D..
bass | composer
*1972 Zurich (Switzerland)
Weber became sought after for beefy bass layers, poisoned counterpoints and for knowing where to pack a punch.
Current projects include a trio with Michel Wintsch piano/synth & Christian Wolfarth drums a duo with Joke Lanz on turntables and another trio with Ellery Eskelin and Michael Griener. Regular performances with ensembles for contemporary composed music, filmmusic, theatre and dance productions.
His collaborations include the likes of Han Bennink, John Butcher, Lol Coxhill, Jacques Demierre, Christy Doran, Paul Dunmall, Peter Evans, Pierre Favre, Jason Kahn, Hans Koch, Peter Kowald, Oliver Lake, Urs Leimgruber, Rudi Mahall, Norbert Möslang, Irène Schweizer, Stephan Wittwer, Nate Wooley and Otomo Yoshihide.
Reviews on The Power Of Negative Thinking:
“If The International Nothing are twin ghosts of Jimmy Giuffre – throbbing, intertwining clarinet chord work – then this expanded incarnation of the Berlin group might have strayed onto a Tom Waits record. Christian Weber’s string bass and Eric Schaefer’s drums propel the clarinets out of the city and into the farmyard with their ornery grooves. Schaefer’s kit in particular has a wonderful sound, like he just got back from a 1940s dance date – Cosy Cole And The Ellingtonians perhaps?
Clarinettists Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke captured my attention right from the first furry discord of their 2006 debut Mainstream. Though all these four musicians are deeply involved in Berlin improvising, The Nothing project was a reaction against reductionist concerns, focused on collaborative composing with notes, harmonies and even songs: Fagaschinski and Thieke are also members of The Magic ID with singers Christof Kurzmann and Magareth Kammerer. Their three duo albums on Ftarri blend a kind of clinical, almost ruthless intelligence with the sensuous sexiness of those bristling multiphonics and difference tones. For the current release they’ve moved to the Polish Monotype label but retained Masae Tanabe, their brilliant sleeve designer.
Expanding to a quartet means a wider dynamic range, so The Nothing can ascend to ecstatic climaxes, while staying entirely committed to their twin woodwind textures. “The Golden Age Of Miscommunication” has Weber’s bass scampering through a rapid riff below a cloudscape of hovering trills and tremolos. “Nothing’s Gonna Last Forever” (see what they did there?) rumbles darkly beneath the chords – it’s funereal, but those clarinets are always tactile. The playing is refined, constructing textural curiosities inspired by electronics. Then Schaefer adds irresistible brushwork and a big old slackskinned kick drum, the sort you want never to stop. “Something Went Wrong” has Schaefer tackling a kind of dub march, eventually loosening into swing while the clarinets pump out an idée fixe fanfare. It all sounds suspiciously like Berlin having fun.”
Clive Bell, THE WIRE
“The psychoacoustic clarinet duo of Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski have been co-creating music of breadth and depth since 2000. Their rapport is palpable, the way they blend their sounds, hypnotic. From muted hums to whispered rasps, they alternately background and foreground one another in a seamless interchange of focus and intensities.
On The Power of Negative Thinking, the International Nothing is joined by “something” in bassist Christian Weber and drummer/percussionist Eric Schaefer, who add dimensions of timbre and rhythm to the woodwinds’ mesmerizing sounds.
“We Can Name You Their Names” is nine minutes of stunning range. Opening with barely audible single tones and breath-like cymbal rolls, a spare four-note bass motif enters, while the reeds play unisons that shift microtonally in and out of tune. A simple melody is interspersed with harmonies and multiphonics before a dramatic shift comes in the form of bass and drums taking over. Then, there’s a shattering entrance of super-high clarinet pitches, searingly intense, that stop suddenly, yielding to what sounds like two clarinets melting into one another over a bass/drum figure.
Overall, there is a Morton Feldman-esque minimal, restful calmness that pervades The Power of Negative Thinking. “Long Bow Glowing” is quiet, sparse and full of spaces, as long tones, microtones, beat frequencies and multiphonics appear and disappear. There isn’t any development, just self-propelled change. Relaxing and warm, “Nothing’s Gonna Last Forever,” the album’s last track, is meditative and sweet-natured.
What has characterized the International Nothing’s music throughout much of their work is haunting beauty. On The Power of Negative Thinking’s seven pieces, they (… and something) have it in spades.”
Glen Hall, EXCLAIM
“Sinn für Humor beweist auch das blasinstrumentenbewehrte Duo The International Nothing, das bei einer Prämierung für den besten Bandnamen sehr weit vorn dabei wäre. Auf dem Album „The Power of Negative Thinking“ haben sich die beiden Klarinettisten Kai Fagaschinski und Michael Thieke mit dem Bassisten Christian Weber und dem Schlagzeuger Eric Schaefer zum Quartett vereint, was der Namenszusatz (… and Something) verdeutlicht.
Fagaschinski und Thieke erzeugen sorgsam geschichtete Mehrklänge, Differenztöne und Überlagerungsfrequenzen – vulgo krächzende Zwischengebilde, die für Hörer, die mit den Gepflogenheiten der Berliner Echtzeitmusik nicht vertraut sind, wie ausgedehntes Falschspielen klingen mögen, tatsächlich aber fein ausgelotete Erkundungen ihrer Instrumente darstellen. Weber und Schaefer geben dem schwebend-bohrenden Klang eine ganz leichte Erdung, erweitern das Spektrum nach unten. Wenn so das Negative klingt, kann es so schlecht nicht sein.”
Tim Casper Boehme, TAZ
“Previously noted The International Nothing on their 2014 CD, The Dark Side Of Success for the Japanese Ftarri label; the twin clarinets of Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke impressed our reviewer S. Marshall with their “enclosed, extraordinarily long-winded exercises”. We’ve also encountered Kai a few times over the years, for instance in various improvising combos represented on the Mikroton label, and most oddly of all as half of The Dogmatics with Chris Abrahams. If Kai’s in the room, you can guarantee a brittle atmosphere, that much we know…and the same observation applies to The Power Of Negative Thinking (MONOTYPE RECORDS mono086), a record that you could eat like so much peanut brittle. In this project, Kai & Michael team up with Swiss bassist Christian Weber on his double bass and the German player Eric Schaefer with his drumkit. Because of this addition to the group, they call themselves The International Nothing (…And Something) for this release, acting as though all of Europe will be amused to death by this layered and intellectual in-joke.
To give you some idea of what this ingenious record is like, it seems by now Fagaschinski and Thieke are being labelled as a “psycho-acoustic” duo. What in the name of Iain Sinclair does that mean? Well, it might be something to do with their deep understanding of sound, the business of producing multiphonics through their woodwind sticks, and exploring the dark realms of “difference tones”, also called “combination tones” – the “third” tone that sometimes appears when in fact there are only two sounds being created. For further information on that phenomenon, see the studies of Giuseppe Tartini in the 18th century.
What this means is that the record is one of slow, very deliberate musical utterances. It’s as though the musicians were actors in an incomprehensible philosophical play, each given lines of enormous import to recite. Then they had to say them in a foreign language as well. And deliver them underwater. While wearing a suit of armour. And any other handicaps that spring to mind, that might obstruct ordinary, linear thinking or direct performance. It isn’t to say the music is heavy-footed; it’s just very considered. Every musical phrase might seem to arrive wrapped in quotes, but they are very beautiful phrases; not a commonplace remark in sight. When you’re occasionally rewarded with a brief harmonic passage in amongst all this stiff awkwardness and formality, it’s like a treat of sugar-coated fruits.
The only time the quartet are allowed to loosen up and have some rollicking fun is on ‘Something Went Wrong’, which anywhere else might be seen as an attempt by a school band to play Kurt Weill for an amateur production; in this context, it’s practically a relief to hear some syncopation after all that staid grace, no matter how stilted it may seem. Mind you, the bassist and drummer also get to shine on ‘We Can Name You Their Names’, which seems to be the apogee of their “Morton Feldman meets the Modern Jazz Quartet approach”. What poise…and if you want to hear what Eric Schaefer can really do to liven up the party with a pineapple (and we’re talking fragmentation hand grenades, brothers), check out ‘Lokale Gebrauche’, where his percussion stabs ring out like tiny gunshots.
From all the above, I need hardly point out how appropriate is the cover illustration, depicting each member as a wild beast of some sort, each from a different continent, and none of them doing much except standing there looking replete and fine in their various pelts. Obviously, the anteater represents one of the clarinet players, but I’m still trying to match up the other three.”
Ed Pinsent, THE SOUND PROJECTOR
“Kai Fagaschinski und Michael Thieke, zwei Berliner Klarinettisten, sich rein der freien Improvisation widmend der eine, im Jazz und frei experimentellen Gefilden gleichermaßen zu Hause der andere. The International Nothing ist vermutlich jeweils die längste andauernde Zusammenarbeit der beiden Musiker. Seit Beginn des Jahrtausends spielen sie zusammen. Und das bedeutet für die beiden intensives Proben, genaues Austüfteln von Klängen und Klangmischungen, Obertönen und Reibungen, Dauern und Dynamiken. Sie halten fest, schreiben auf. Ruhige Musik, oft flirrend, manchmal fast ambientartig, entsteht. Auch nach mehreren CDs bleiben sie ihrem Klang treu. Und doch ist etwas anders. Der Zusatz im Namen (… and something) und gar der Titel – nicht nichts, sondern die Kraft des negativen Denkens!
Vor allem aber sind es die beiden Musikerkollegen, die das Duo als Gäste hinzugebeten hat, in deren Klanggebung und Aktionen die Musik des Duos (ja, sie scheint fast ein wenig flotter zu klingen, die Akkordfortschreitungen folgen für ihre Verhältnisse fast rasch aufeinander, langgezogene Triller sind zu hören) HÖRT, HÖRT! ein anderes Gewand erhält. Man könnte jetzt das Mode wort Kontex tualisierung bemühen oder einfach lauschen, welche Spannungsfelder die vier Musiker aufspannen, wenn der Schlagzeuger Eric Schaefer und der Bassist Christian Weber mit gezielten Einwürfen, kleinen Aktionen aufwarten oder gar mit Groovean leihen spielen.”
Nina Polaschegg, FREISTL
“The International Nothing is the Berlin-based duo of clarinet players Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke. The two have been working together since 2000, refining a highly personal language focused on introspective, microtonal textures through stasis, patiently investigating timbre, multiphonics and extended techniques, with a commanding intensity spiced with a dry sense of humor (reflected also in the cover art by Japanese Masae Tanabe). This duo has released three albums on the Japanese label Ftarri (Mainstream, 2006; Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything, 2010 and The Dark Side of Success, 2014).
Fagaschinski and Thieke collaborated together with other musicians, as the avant-pop quartet The Magic I.D. (with vocalists Margareth Kammerer and Christof Kurzmann), but The Power of Negative Thinking is the first recorded document of The International Nothing collaborating with other musicians. The duo first met drummer-percussionist Eric Schaefer and double bass player Christian Weber in 2006 and recorded The Power Of Negative Thinking on December 2011. Calling the new outfit The International Nothing (… And Something) means that it was a true collective effort.
The expanded International Nothing sound is still a disciplined, precisely determined unit but the now sonic envelope is more dynamic and deeper with the addition of Schaefer delicate, percussive colors and the dark bass of Weber. Schaefer and Weber embrace and contrast Fagaschinski and Thieke’s nuanced and patient, almost transparent flow of multiphonics and overtones with a soft and distant layer of resonating, deep-toned noises as on “We Can Name You Their Names”, “What You Need to Know About Drowning” and the contemplative march of “Nothing’s Gonna Last Forever”. But this contrasting approach also intensifies The International Nothing refined playing into surprising terrains. Suddenly a more concrete, erratic pulse, becomes playful on “The Golden Age Of Miscommunication” and even joyful one on “Something Went Wrong” that adopts a twisted dub pattern. I guess that it is always useful to challenge your way of thinking, whether it is negative or positive.”
Eyal Hareuveni, FREEJAZZBLOG
“Statt negative Gedanken gegen ‘gesundes’ Denken zu tauschen, gibt mir The Power Of Negative Thinking (mono086) anderes in den Sinn. Nämlich die Negative Theologie als Abführmittel für Götzen und Popanze, die Negation der Negation, ein Nichts-da gegen all das Neusprech, das unsere Tage zum ‘The Golden Age Of Miscommunication’ macht. Wenn THE INTERNATIONAL NOTHING (… AND SOMETHING) dazu ‘Something Went Wrong’ konstatieren, ist das nicht übertrieben. Die beiden Haupt-Nichtse kennen wir längst, es sind Kai Fagaschinski & Michael Thieke mit ihren Minimalklarinetten. Als zusätzliches Etwas fungieren der grandiose Kontrabassist Christian Weber und Eric Schaefer, der als Drummer im Michael Wollny Trio mit Nacht und Traum – und durch Demontage, Nickendes Perlgras und Unununium mit Thieke – gut vertraut ist. Wenn die beiden Klarinetten ihre typischen Mikrotöne in die Nacht weben, setzt er mit der Pauke markante Tupfen dazu und begrummelt so auch einen etwas forcierteren Moment. Weber versucht mit federnden Bogenschlägen und im Verbund mit Schaefer die Nothings aus der Reserve zu locken, sie grooven auch schon einmal wenigstens für sich. Da können die Klarinetten nicht widerstehen, auch ein wenig zu trillern. Aber schon weben sie wieder zarte Drones und ein gedämpftes Nachtlied. Schlafwandelnd angesprochen von Pizzikato und flirrendem Becken reagieren sie mit schrillen Pfiffen, die Weber mit dem Bogen absägt. Mürbes Glissando brütet über schleppender Punktierung, der Bogen und rauschendes Becken weben einen dunklen Horizont, der dieses Notturno verschluckt. Haltetöne beginnen zu flattern zu schlurchendem Besenstrich und malen, anschwellend, lange Nachtschatten. Die sich plötzlich – was geht da schief? – als Trauerzug und launiger Drehwurm in Bewegung setzen, links, rechts, links, rechts, mit lang gezogenem Fanfarenschall. Aber, ‘Nothing’s Gonna Last Forever’ (was für eine wunderbar oxymorone Parole): Noch einmal grummelt die Pauke, noch einmal brüten die Klarinetten dunkel über hellem Bogenstrich, noch einmal geben sie dem schleppend pochenden Beat ihren unstillbaren Insichwiderspruch mit auf den Weg.”
Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY
“Was Kai Fagaschinski und Michael Thieke als internationales Nichts mit ihren Klarinetten anstellen, hat mit herkömmlicher Musik wenig, mit extrem spannender KlangPerformance sehr viel zu tun, das wissen an solcherlei TonKost Interessierte seit Jahren (vgl. etwa WZ 03/07). Das Duo um den Schlagzeuger Eric Schaefer und Christian Weber am Baß (beide in der ImproSzene bestens eingeführt) erweiternd predigt man jetzt die Kraft des Negativen Denkens (schon allein der Name der Platte ist wunderbar!). Nach einigen “Lokale(n) Gebräuche(n)” finden stringente Rhythmen und astrale Klarinetten sehr schnell zum symbiotischen Miteinander. Das Projekt setzt auch in verstärkter Besetzung nicht auf bloßen Lärm oder schiere Kraft, sondern vertraut weiter der Intuition und findet so einen versteckten Pfad durch diesen gar nicht so dichten und doch unglaublich facettenreichen Dschungel aus Klang.”
Karsten Zimalla, WESTZEIT
“The trend for positive thinking isn’t one I’m on board with. Social Media is aclog with well-meaning but vacuous affirmations and new-age wisdom might briefly lighten the bubble some – many – people are content to float around in, but none of it actually does anything to address the underlying causes of the feelings of sadness, melancholy, anger, emptiness which afflict us all. The idea that it’s possible to think oneself healthy or successful – is one which is clearly problematic. That isn’t to say that mental training can’t improve wellbeing, but anyone who supports the belief that positive thinking can cure depression, or remedy the ills of the world is very much mistaken. But any idea looks more interesting and offers new possibilities when turned on its head, so inverting the popular notions of the power of positive thinking is almost certain to spark some flash of inspiration.
The International Nothing have built a career on inversion, as previous albums The Dark Side of Success, Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything, and the mega-ironically Mainstream attest, not to mention their very name, a name which connotes inversion of something to present the absolute absence of anything, on an international scale. In context, I get the impression that The Power of Negative Thinking, housed as it is in a rather surreal cover depicting drawings of mythical cross-breeds floating in the air amidst fluffy clouds, isn’t entirely serious in its titling. Nevertheless, anger, frustration, sadness, can all be channelled creatively to yield powerful artistic results. The International Nothing is ‘psycho-acoustic clarinet duo’ Michael Thieke and Kai Faganaschinki, working here in collaboration with Christian Weber (double-bass) and Eric Schaefer (drums and percussion) (collectively, the ‘something’).
The album’s seven experimentally-led (but very much not improvised) tracks are not negative in the sense that they express or articular any explicit negative emotions, there’s no nihilistic noise or an overt espousal of any ideology, philosophy or mindset. What the pieces do convey is an ominous atmosphere which is ambiguous. And that ambiguity provokes a sense of creeping doubt. Contrary to the popular consensus, doubt is not necessarily a bad thing: uncertainty requires consideration, appraisal, in order to pursue a resolution of certainty. Certainty without discourse is simply blind faith. ‘The Golden Age of Miscommunication’ could well be a term applied to our present times, and the track’s plucked double bass and skittering rhythms which stop and start is disruptive, and a reminder that to reach the truth, one must question and challenge the facts as they’re presented. To accept unquestioningly, to allow oneself to become comfortable, is to be complacent and complacence brings vulnerability. The easy comfort of the snaking groove which emerges, only to fade to nothing, can be read as a metaphor, it’s disappearance a reminder of the importance of being prepared for unexpected change. The lugubrious ‘We Can Name You With Their Names’ is built around a strolling bass and scraping clarinet drone which is soon drowned to a long-building swell of percussion and a shrieking howl of treble. ‘Long Bow Glowing’ may be brief, but it’s dark and ominous, a foreboding bass drone is disturbed by hovering, high-pitched hums.
Sonically, the tonal explorations are highly engaging in themselves: the ways the clarinets resonate against one another is fascinating, and a defining feature of the work of The International Nothing. The additional instrumentation brought by the Something bring dynamic range and a real sense of depth to the pieces. Compositionally, this is a dark and thought-provoking work, although its weight lies as much in its connotations and implications and the work it invites the listener to involve themselves in which provides its real power – the power of negative thinking.”
Christopher Nosnibor, AURAL AGGRAVATION
“C’est terrible. Quand on vous parle de clarinette, les personnes qui sont au moins de ma génération vont faire (enfin, la plupart du temps) cette atroce association d’idée avec Christian Morin. C’est dramatique. Comme si cet instrument ne peut s’incarner que dans la musique d’ascenseur ou dans le jazz du pauvre. On a rien en soit contre Christian Morin mais bon, il n’est tout de même pas l’interprète du siècle et a plutôt cette image que peut se traîner un Richard Clayderman dans un autre registre. Tout ceci pour dire que non, la clarinette n’est pas faite que pour la musique en conserve et qu’on serait bien aviser de briser quelques clichés. Notamment en écoutant une formation comme The International Nothing (…and Something) qui a été formé par deux clarinettistes : Michael Thieke et Kai Fagaschinski. Déjà auteurs de plusieurs albums pour un label japonais (Ftarri), ils ont aussi collaboré avec des artistes comme Margareth Kammerer et Christof Kurzmann. Ce qui les classe clairement dans l’avant garde et/ou les musiques approchantes. Et ça tombe bien puisque The Power of Negative Thinking, qui s’enrichit d’un batteur (Eric Schaefer) et d’un bassiste (Christian Weber), s’inscrit pleinement dans cette ligne. Entre jazz, musique concrète et abstraite, cet album se joue des présupposés liés aux instruments et parvient à créer des ambiances fascinantes qui gardent en elles une petite pointe d’anxiété suffisante pour qu’elle puisse nous captiver. Si on s’intéresse aux textures sonores, il faut également souligner cette volonté permanente de mouvement, d’occupation de l’espace et de générer une musique qui soit le plus ouverte possible. L’effort est plus que louable car The Power of Negative Thinking nous apporte des sensations très diverses mais jamais dans le mauvais sens. Disque hétérogène, il est certes borné par une coloration sonore due à la structure même de la formation, il se distingue par sa capacité à se mouvoir facilement ne donnant jamais l’impression de se répéter. Du beau boulot en somme.”
“Flaubert dreamt of writing a book about nothing, the Berlin-based clarinet players Kai Fagaschinki and Michael Thieke managed to create a band referring to the idea that charmed the mind of the French writer. Kai and Micheal overreached this idea: they’ve given a sort of global dimension by calling their collaborative project, involving the precious contributions by bass player Christian Weber and drummer Eric Schaefer, ‘The International Nothing (…and something)’. By means of the persuasive power of the language, they even coined an unusual title for this release, possibly subverting the dogma of contemporary sentimental education (please excuse this further quotation), according to which the so-called negative thinking is something that must be condemned and combated by any possible expensive means by a flimflam psychotherapist. Besides any possible matching, “The Power Of Negative Thinking” features seven bizarre sessions, where the sound of clarinet, together with crooked stressing by bass and drum, looking like belonging to a dark-jazz ensemble in slow-motion, portrays sinister and somehow deviant soundscapes in between melting elongations on single tones, gently sneaking grooves, bipolar microtonal clarinet beatings, softened hits and other helpful tricks that succeed in rendering a mysterious atmosphere, reaching its acme in the almost disturbing choked crescendo of “Long Bow Glowing”, the hypnotic minimalism of “What You Need To Know About Drowning” and the thin and almost lulling dissonance spurting in tracks like “The Golden Age Of Miscommunication” and the final “Nothing’s Gonna Last Forever”.”
Vito Camarretta, CHAIN D.L.K
“Put on the circuit via Monotype Records in June 2k16 is “The Power Of Negative Thinking”, the full length album debut of The International Nothing (…And Something) which is basically an extension of the clarinet duo The International Nothing, comprised of Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, forming a quartet piece featuring Christian Weber on double bass as well as Eric Schaefer on drums and percussion instruments. Together the quartet creates a feel of deeply felt autumnal melancholia in the stripped down, highly captivating opener “Lokale Gebräuche”, transition subtly into the “Golden Age Of Communication”, which mainly stays on the plangent main motif of its predecessor but adds ever building, yet separated percussion sequences as a foundation, bringing in a certain amount of Funk but also some influences of Bossa- and related percussion styles before “We Can Name You Their Names” takes the groups minimalism even further, providing a new kind of Blues (Not Blues) for inner city philosophers and rural concretecists that turns into free, high frequency improv and organic Noize at about five minutes, only to pursue its inherent vibe with a more PostRock-related twist after a surprising breakdown to near silence. In “Long Bow Glowing” The International Nothing (…And Something) explores magical, yet slightly eerie ambience and the sinister titled “What You Need To Know About Drowning” makes us wonder how stripped down and droney a fully organic quartet comprised of live instruments can ever get as this piece is the definition of ‘stripping down things to the very core’ although simultaneously providing us with dark and beautiful layers of clarinets whilst introducing rasping Field Recordings towards the tunes’ end. “Something Went Wrong” might be the most dancey song on this debut album, providing a playful, positive vibe oozing off stoically played live loops and a certain Rock attitude when it comes to its drums whilst “Nothing’s Gonna Last Forever” reminds us that even this great album comes to an end, weighing in thundering background percussions and – again – heartfelt, thoughtful melancholy for those who love to stare out of steamy windows into a bleak and rainy world. This is great!”
Baze Djunkii, NITESTYLEZ
“It’s been a while since I last heard music from The International Nothing, a duo of two clarinet players, Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski, called ‘The Dark Side Of Success’, no doubt an ironic title. Their music is improvised and has a great quality to it, an excellent dialogue. Now they extended their line up, and so they changed the name of the band a bit. Added are the talents of Christian Weber (double bass) and Eric Schaefer (drums & percussion), both of whom I think I didn’t hear before. The expanded line-up means also an expansion of their sound and it works out in different ways. At first I must admit I didn’t think much was added in some of these pieces, with all of them playing that is very close cut, but one quickly realizes that the two clarinets make up half the sound anyway, but with the addition of drums and bass it expands into something… jazzy is surely a word that comes to mind, as the drums and bass play that path quite a bit. But there is also more than that I would think. The drone/sine wave approach this duo usually has is never far away, and then bass and drum becomes suddenly all a bit sparse, placing an accent here or a touch there. There is quite a bit of tension among these players, seasoned improvisers as they are, and it’s easily music that defies categorization. It is improvised, surely, but likewise some parts are composed, or thought out before hand (or created as such in the mix). It is at times quite noise based but it can space out as well. ‘Something Went Wrong’, and I am not sure how appropriate that title is, is a piece of almost pop like proportions. One expects a great melody to be played but it doesn’t happen, thus staying in line with the rest of the pieces, and at the same time it is quite different. All of this makes this an intense, varied and versatile release.”
Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
“Whatever happened to the artists of free improv scene that got afloat in the 2000’s? I always ask myself this question. Well, I got an answer in the Monotype release both on cd and vinyl.
Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke are the st up of the The International Nothing duo which is about two clarinets coming into the mutual dialogue. Three albums on Japanese Ftarri label proved there are not many matching elements in the experimental post-improv scene. After meeting Christian Weber and Eric Schaefer on respectively double bass and drums there were no doubt that International Nothing has to mutate into full blown band.
The new extension not only widened and enriched the spectrum of the music but also gave a deep end jump feel to it.
They seem to explore many variants of different modulations, idioms and approaches like polyrhythmia with subtle microtonal touch. Whatever theme goes on you are sure to be nicely surprised how much they can absorb from each other and how much is being released in mutual osmosis. Which leads me to the conclusion that apart from the obvious craft and musicianship there so so much groovy energy to those guys. I will be looking forward to listen to some new stuff they will release...”
Hubert Heathertoes, FELTHAT