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Hauschka collaborators Insa, Donja and Kai (2 cellists and a percussionist) step out on their own with this immensely rewarding release. The trio is in rare form here, presenting a series of original works that should establish them as composers of equal stature. Insomnia Joyeuse is one of the best Sonic Pieces releases in quite some time, which is saying quite a lot. There’s a little wiggle room on the color interpretation, but most fans will be calling this “the magenta one”. These sounds are well worth hearing, no matter what the perceived shad - acloserlisten.com/
Made up of percussionist Kai Angermann and cellists Insa Schirmer and Donja Djember, Inja Donja Kai is likely not a trio you’ve come across before, but chances are you’ve heard what they do. Accompanying their friend and collaborator Hauschka, they’ve appeared on a number of his recordings, but ‘Insomnie Joyeuse’ is their chance to go it alone and show their own unique charms. While the setup of two cellos and percussion might sound quite spare, the trio have a very natural understanding of the space around them. No doubt this skill comes from Kai Angermann, whose delicate percussive touch is the backbone of the album, bringing to mind the sparse yet urgent arrangements of Zelienople percussionist Mike Weis. The twin cellos seem to move like ballerinas in and out of the woodblock hits, glockenspiel and whatever else is in Angermann’s arsenal, creating a unique and totally haunting atmosphere. This is expertly realized music, and the kind of sounds you really only hear from musicians at the top of their craft – not that the three languish in virtuoso stylings, rather each sound has a point and a purpose giving the music an economy that it only rarely heard. A softly spoken but unmistakably gorgeous record, ‘Insomnie Joyeuse’ is an unexpected treat. - boomkat
Insa (Schirmer), Donja (Djember) and Kai (Angermann) have been recording and touring together for years, most notably with Hauschka. On Insomnie Joyeuse, the trio (two cellists and a percussionist) step into the spotlight and hold it with ease, proving that they are more than just accompaniment; they are now the main act. Once again, Sonic Pieces has introduced us to a seemingly new set of performers whose first official effort sounds like the work of veterans. There’s no hesitation to be found on the album; no tentative notes are struck. The notes may be coy, but they are never shy. By combining intricate scoring with exemplary musicianship, Insomnie Joyeuse represents modern composition at its best.
With two cellists, a wide variety of notes can be struck, and Nils Frahm’s mastering brings out every note. On the stellar opening track, “Expansion II”, the lower and higher registers are explored separately before meeting in the middle; a series of swoops tempts the listener to follow one, then the other. While neither cellist is earthbound, one seems to hold the tether while the other explores the skies. The cellist on the ground shouts encouragement through string and bow. The cellist in the sky lands, bows, takes the reins.
Much modern cello music is mournful and reflective, and while these things may be intuited in certain tracks, they are not the main story. A sprightly tempo keeps things light and hopeful. When timbres change, as they do at the end of “Red Reflections”, a window is opened to that other world, but the screen remains down, an indication that the joy of the title may be more important than the insomnia, or even that the insomnia is the source of an early hours creativity that results in joy.
The variety of sounds is greater than one might expect, as the percussion is not restricted to drums. (As an aside, “Angermann” is a great name for a percussionist!) The vibraphone (first heard on “End Silence”) adds an extra dimension, and at times, one cellist plucks while the other draws, creating the illusion of percussion where none exists. ”Close to Leaves” is as close to a single as one might ever find on an album of modern composition, thanks to a three-minute running time and a revisited motif that operates as a chorus. A pause 38 seconds before the end, an intake of breath; then, rapture.
The title of “Et de lointain la neige” lends itself to a bit of interpretative discussion; it may mean “And the music that accompanies snow” or “And the background music created by snow”. Either way, it’s a lovely title, the only problem being that this is not background music. The notes may be as pretty as snowflakes, but they fall much less gently and refuse to melt. Perhaps the title is meant as a metaphor. One can ignore snow when cocooned, but one can’t ignore the whoomp of snow falling en masse from a bending branch just outside one’s window. In a similar fashion, one can’t ignore these performers, nor would one wish to. Insa Donja Kai never belonged in the back row; on Insomnie Joyeuse they claim the front for themselves. (Richard Allen)