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Anchor and Burden — Clenched Brow
(Iapetus no#, 2021, DL)

Anchor and Burden — Weigh Anchor
(Iapetus no#, 2021, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-04-21

Clenched Brow Cover artWeigh Anchor Cover art

Anchor and Burden is a group that runs the danger of getting lost by being “just another Markus Reuter project” — after all, he’s got dozens of them. But this one does actually have qualities that set it apart from the others. One of the other members is Bernhardt Wöstheinrich, who has been a longtime collaborator with Reuter in Centrozoon, and in a way, Anchor and Burden could be regarded as Centrozoon with a rhythm section, since the other participants are Shawn Crowder (drums) and Alexander Dowerk (Touch Guitar). The group’s music is all “spontaneously composed,” and they’ve released five albums’ worth since October 2021. Reuter kicked off the project with a solo album called Anchor and Burden in September, and there is a planned release called Magnet, another solo album, that will close out the project. The first of the group efforts to come out was Weigh Anchor, which features a ten-part piece called “Knots,” with all the sections running together. Reuter is well-known for his soundscapes, which he creates with his Touch Guitar and a variety of effects devices, and Wöstheinrich has a tendency to be very textural and atmospheric with his keyboards, so it’s no surprise that a major element of the group’s sound is a near constant dense, flowing background wash of tones. From watching videos of the sessions, all of which were filmed, the most common arrangement is for the keyboards to lay down a bed of long tones, Dowerk to throw in a bass line, Crowder to groove creatively with lots of freedom, and Reuter to solo over the top, as in “Knot 1.” But given the talents of these four, there are lots of other possibilities to explore. Wöstheinrich can fire up a sequence of rhythmic sounds and the bass and drums pick up the beat, like we see in “Knot 6,” where Reuter’s part takes the form of slow-attack tones and clean chords. The title cut from the second release, Clenched Brow, uses a similar strategy, though in this case I’m not sure where the rhythm pattern is coming from — Crowder certainly isn’t playing it, but we don’t see anyone else trigger it either. Not that it matters, when the result is this good. While Reuter is generally cast in the role of soloist, his parts have quite a lot of variety, from Fripp-like lead lines to dissonant blurts to subtle melodic arcs. Clenched Brow consists of six tracks, which might make for more convenient listening; the overall style and mood are the same, presenting a series of variations on the basic ideas. In comparing Anchor and Burden to other non-composed groups, I find the variety of roles each player brings to the game to be what sets this above bands where more traditional divisions are involved. While I wouldn’t advocate for listening to multiple Anchor and Burden releases consecutively, taking any one of them by itself is quite enjoyable.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Markus Reuter, Bernhard Wöstheinrich, Anchor and Burden

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