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  • Dieb13

I won’t make any argument that the Austrian turntable artist Dieb13 is a jazz musician—even though he plays in the great Swedish Azz with reedist Mats Gustafsson, tuba player Per-Åke Holmlander, and vibist Kjell Nordeson—but he’s one of the most arresting and original improvisers I’ve heard in the last decade, easily transcending the limitations one would have with just a pair of turntables and a crate of records. I had heard some of his recordings before I saw him live for the first time in 2009 at Gustafsson’s Perspectives Festival in Vasteras, Sweden. He was playing a duo set with the fascinating Korean improviser Ryu Hankil, who makes sounds from old clock mechanisms. I just didn’t see how Dieb13 (nee Dieter Kovačič) was going to be able to work with him. I was wrong. The set blew me away. Dieb13 was able to keep his stream of sound utterly unpredictable, constantly changing, and empathically plugged into Hankil’s idiosyncratic creaks and stutters, all the while proceeding with a clear flow and logic.

Over the years Dieb13 has worked with loads of electronically oriented improvisers, including on two fabulous albums for Erstwhile: Eh, with guitarist Burkhard Stangl, and Chaos Club, with fellow abstract turntablist ErikM. In recent years some of his best work has been in a trio with Gustafsson and guitarist Martin Siewert, where they conjure extended fabrics of tensile, tactile sounds; tangled and gnarled string vibrations, astringent, striated snorts, and disarticulated samples of jazz, ambient, white noise, cocktail, and lots of other unidentifiable records. I remain just as blown away by Dieb13’s resourcefulness and speed at reacting to the lines and utterances of his partners, which is unleashed in a rapid flow without any sense of latency. But he’s just as absorbing on his own, and he performs for the first time ever in Chicago tonight at Constellation. On last year’s Trick 17 (Corvo) he develops ideas in a more sustained, extended fashion, and without the need to interact with improvising partners he offers a different, more immersive experience. You can check out a ton of recordings on Dieb13’s website, both solo and with collaborators like Otomo Yoshihide, Mattin, and Billy Roisz, among others. Below is a ten-minute clip from a recent solo performance in his hometown of Vienna.

Today’s playlist:

Dona Onete, Feitiça Caboclo (Na Music)
Diego Schissi Quinteto, Tongos (Sunnyside)
Woodpecker Wooliams, The Bird School of Being Human (Robot Elephant)
Broadcast, Berberian Sound Studio (Warp)
Albert King, Born Under a Bad Sign (Stax)

Peter Margasak writes about jazz every Friday.