(Free Flow Music)

Alfred Harth says that “Paris is a city where clichés are so much alive, and love and death are really close to each other; you can feel it intensely when you live there”. Thus it should not come as a surprise that “Sweet Paris” is quite a difficult listen at first: one needs to give it full dedication to be completely rewarded. We could define it a studio collage, or a long text-sound piece if you will, even if it’s divided into 14 different tracks. Among the basic foundations of the album are computer processed music, cassette recordings with short extracts of Harth’s various projects over the years (including his oldest recording, a pretty sad “dixie jazz-like” blues from 1965 aptly named “Melancholy blues”) and of course the record’s basic theme, namely the numerous letters that the composer received from his friend Wolf Pehlke, who portrayed a city in which he reportedly “was exploding” and sent his reflections to Harth (at that time moving backward and forward between Frankfurt and the French capital), who finally edited them into fragments of texts that Rebecca Pauli and Peter Bauer read throughout the CD. The importance of “Sweet Paris” resides in Harth’s desire to leave behind the bitterness deriving from the end of important personal and artistic relationships from the previous years and find new grounds to explore, both in art and architecture. Those who – like yours truly – aren’t familiar with the German language should approach the record without thinking too much about meanings and interpretations, concentrating instead on the voices’ timbral character and cadenzas amidst the urban recordings and segments of “regular” music that grace the disc. There’s a lot to be discovered in that sense: Peter Kowald, Paul Lovens, Steve Beresford, Ferdinand Richard, Christoph Anders are only a few of the grey eminences present here. In particular, the Gestalt Et Jive track is great: from free improvisation to pop riffing in two minutes, Harth soloing like a madman over an idiotic vamp at the end. There are also a couple of strange “soundtrack-like” instrumentals characterized by the preset sounds of Korg synthesizers, so warped that they sound great nevertheless, fake drums and all; one of them is the pensive “Sweet & bitter little death”, the album’s “end titles song”, with the boss engaged in a sensitive bass clarinet contemplation. But, forced to choose a favourite, I’d say “Crimée Rome”, an easy-going (but not too much) melodic cutie with a few angularities, played by LA Guardia (Lars Rudolph, Stephan Wittwer, Wietn Wito plus Mr.23) that reminds me of the times in which I run a program in a “democratic” Roman radio whose honchos were so open minded that I was thrown out – twice – after a few months of serious music (yes, I played this track too) and on-the-air uneasy truths. Sweet Freedom of Speech.

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