Discography Details


michael thieke:
clarinet, alto saxophone, zither
dave bennett:
derek shirley:

recorded in berlin 14.03.2004
cover design by axel haller
schraum/berlin (D) 2005
01 oberfläche 05:23
02 moto 04:29
03 wintermusik 04:21
04 kein stern 02:58
05 sleepy lady 13:47
06 shiny 06:58


The members of Hotelgäste come from Germany and Canada, but they all currently reside in Berlin. Rather ambitious they let us know: "...draws upon diverse experiences within their environment to explore a new music created in the moment; sonic densities and vast cold silences are juxtaposed to bring architectural integrity to their improvisations". Hotelgäste are Micheal Thieke on alto saxophone, alto clarinet and clarinet, Dave Bennett on guitar and Derek Shirley on bass. Shirley also plays in Monno, Coal Oven and Ununium, Bennett is Tunar, The Hollowmen, Erik and Me and Splatterdandy, whereas Thieke plays around with improvised musicians. Although there is only one date mentioned for this recording, I assume this is a studio recording, with some form of multi-tracking at the basis. The density they mention is surely an important factor in their music, as in each of the six tracks the music is close together. Maybe Hotelgäste set upon an atmosphere, or perhaps a sort of sound, in which they want each player to sound alike. This tight knitting of sounds is not as silent as some of the other current improvisers, and also the treatment of their instruments as objects is not as close as some of the current players in the scene, but it's remotely away from regular playing of the instruments, i.e. it's somewhat harder to recognize the origins of each instruments. This makes this CD into quite a pleasure to hear: improvised enough, but also a bit composed, played freely among tight plans, crossing the boundaries of old and new improvisation. Quite nice!
Frans de Waard, VITAL WEEKLY 09/2005

This sensitive and well-executed set of six improvisations comes courtesy of Michael Thieke (clarinet, alto sax and zither), Dave Bennett (guitar) and Derek Shirley (bass). Though Thieke has popped up on a number of impressive post-reductionist outings in recent times, including two fine releases on Creative Sources (Schwimmer's 7x4x7 and his solo Leuchten), Flowers You Can Eat finds him in more combative company – Bennett's guitar work on "Moto" is decidedly raw and noisy. While there's very little silence on offer, the music still moves at the sedate pace associated with lowercase, which gives the impression that the shorter tracks are extracts from (or sketches for) longer works. Consequently, "Sleepy Lady", the longest track by far at 13'46", is the most convincing piece of the set, showing what the musicians are capable of when they stretch out. Especially Thieke, who has little inclination to show off his repertoire of extended techniques, preferring to concentrate on sustained tones.
Dan Warburton, PARISTRANSATLANTIC 11/2005

Hotelgäste is an ethereal trio playing sound structures and subtle nuances. Woodwind and zither player Thieke takes subdued tacks through spatial zones as he quietly constructs a series of tonal layers that cast an eerie shadow. Using breath control and whispered accents, he methodically sets the stage for this mystical session. Shirley and Bennett complement the séance by percussively striking their instruments, agitat- edly massaging their strings, or tweaking the electrical controls in further development of this gossamery aura. The music, however, does make an occasional radical turn to become boisterous when the volume rises to cacophonous heights and all three voices are seemingly crying out in spiritual fashion. These moments are fleeting; the trio always finds safe haven in the understated world of creative expression. Passages of near silence also dot the program, giving it an introspective feel as each musician pauses to contemplate the right form of sound to be inserted next. The overall ambiance is somewhat disrupted on “Sleepy Lady,” a lengthy cut where Thieke plucks repetitively in flowing motion on the zither to produce a sound emulating electronic code. This action causes a stir in the somnambular state and raises the level of excitement several degrees. The pulsating high-pitched drone continues throughout the piece while statical strings overlay the activity. Hotelgäste offers a performance built on sheerness and transparency that can have a hypnotic impact if one allows the seduction process to proceed unabated.
Frank Rubolino, CADENCE (USA) 04/2006

This is the debut recording of Hotelgäste, a trio formed by Canadian Dave Bennett and Derek Shirley (on guitar and bass respectively) plus Michael Thieke on clarinet, alto sax and zither. Since the very first moments a mechanism of continuous emission is set up by the musicians, who remain within the limits of slightly powered microsounds alimented by organic composites of acoustic and electronic means, filling every space with an unobtrusive spreading of colours deriving from the AMM/Morphogenesis palette. In this sense, "Sleepy Lady" - not coincidentally the longest track - is the most involving segment, developing its motory force gradually yet incessantly, in an amorphous deprivation of aural breath where the deep resonance of Thieke's reed accompanies Bennett and Shirley in an infinite try to raise their heads out of the poisoned waters of pseudo-industrial loops. The rest of the album also shows good class, the music ranging from clustering isolationist dissonances to opaque transparences, where the sources keep their visibility even if blurred by a diffuse dust of distortion; a flash of truly great interaction is "Wintermusic", in which Shirley's bass arcoes a hole in the ground for levity to be buried in, while Thieke and Bennett throw dirt through their playing in a commemorative gesture, all faces pointing to the crumbling ground under their feet.
Massimo Ricci, TOUCHING EXTREMES (I) 11/2005

A while ago, I reviewed Michael Thieke's "Leuchten" on Creative Sources. Here the Berlin/Rome-based musician (playing clarinet, alto saxophone and zither) teams up with two Canadian performers now living in Berlin too, Dave Bennett (guitar) and Derek Shirley (bass). Thieke's solo cd was full of good ideas and developments, but definitely on the harsh and solipsistic side of things (not a bad things in itself, mind it); this trio, on the contrary, presents a kind of more humane and warm improvisation, which makes this one of the most enjoyable works in the field of free-form music that I've listened to lately. The trio's interaction is quite typically based on the juxtaposition of microscopic, pebble-like fragments and restrained gestures ("Kein stern", "Moto"), but also on a fuller, more droning mass of sound, thanks to the use of e-bows and sustained wind playing. This gives birth to remarkable pieces like "Wintermusik", "Shiny" or the tour-de-force of "Sleepy lady", easily the most captivating track of the cd, where a jangling guitar, a discreet bass and what sounds like (but is probably not) looped electronics, create a wonderful suspended soundscape. In its cohesiveness and variety of inputs, this is a cd to be listened to many times.
Eugenio Maggi, CHAIN DLK 11/2005

“Flowers You Can Eat” è la terza uscita dell’emergente etichetta tedesca Schraum e presenta il trio Hotelgaste al debuto discografico. L’organico è composto dal clarinettista e alto sassofonista, Michael Thieke (qui anche alle prese con lo Zither), rinomato improvvisatore della scena berlinese (ricordiamolo nelle esperienze più jazz-oriented con il quintetto di Eric Schaefer) e personaggio già trattato su sands-zine per alcuni suoi ottimi lavori per la label portoghese Creative Sources; insieme a lui, i più misconosciuti Dave Bennett e Derek Shirley, canadesi ma ormai da anni a Berlino, rispettivamente alla chitarra e basso. Proprio ai lavori di Thieke usciti per la Creative Sources (in particolare l’ensamble Shwimmer o il suo recentissimo disco solo), è riconducibile il suono degli Hotegaste che segue quindi le improvvisazioni e le sperimentazioni introdotte dai vari Dörner e Nmperign, con una resa sonora però molto più vicina a certe esplorazioni digitali rispetto che a quelle analogiche, cosa che è, più che in altri, riconducibile alle caratteristiche di Thieke e alla scuola tedesca degli ultimi anni (vedi anche le recenti prove di Franz Hautzinger). Il trio gira a meraviglia, in equilibrio tra silenzio e rumore, stratificazioni sonore scuola AMM, e note che si alternano tra stridori e ricchi timbri percussivi (non lontanissimi da un altro ottimo trio di improvvisazione, americano in questo caso, i PSI). La componente elettrica/elettronica, complice gli inserti basso/chitarra, ha indubbiamente il suo peso nell’economia del disco e, in particolari frangenti, come i bellissimi suoni ‘dronati’, si direbbe quasi un folk astratto, di sleepy lady, sono addirittura fondamentali. È la nuova scuola berlinese che si fa avanti, meglio di così si muore.
Alfredo Rastelli, SANDS-ZINE (I) 11/2005

Das kanadisch-deutsche Trio mit der durchaus konventionellen Besetzung Gitarre, Bass und Klarinette/Sax (sowie Zither als kleines exotisches Schmankerl) und dem dafür aber unstrittig gekonnt gewähltem Bandnamen kreiert auf seinem Debut etwas, das im Info so treffend wie schön "Momentmusik" genannt wird. Böse Zungen würden die essbaren Blumen wohl unter "eine knappe Dreiviertelstunde Gefrickel" verbuchen, täten damit aber dem konzentrierten Spiel der drei genauso Unrecht wie derem einfallsreichen Musikkonzept. Improvisierte Musik sollte auf einem soliden Fundament aus Erfahrung, Können und Flexibilität (sowie Bescheidenheit) ruhen - die Hotelgäste verfügen über all dies in hinreichendem Maße. Guten Appetit!
Karsten Zimalla, WESTZEIT (D) 12/2005

Ansonsten gegen bundeshauptstädtische Ansprüche eher gleichgültig, muss ich zugeben, dass Berlin sich wieder zu einem beeindruckenden Sammelplatz für kreative Köpfe gemausert hat. Hotelgäste, ein Projekt des Düsseldorfer Klarinettisten Michael Thieke, der hier auch Altosaxophon und Zither einsetzt, zusammen mit dem Gitarristen Dave Bennett aus Montreal und Derek Shirley aus Ottawa am Bass, ist da nur ein weiteres Beispiel unter vielen für die kumulative Anziehungskraft einer attraktiven Künstlerszene. Thiekes Vernetzung in Projekten wie Schwimmer, Nickendes Perlgras oder dem Clarinet Trio mit Gebhard Ullmann sei hier nur kurz in Erinnerung gerufen. Bennett operiert parallel und polystilistisch auch noch in Tunar (mit Sabine Vogel und der Schraum-Mitbegründerin Merle Ehlers), in The Hollow Men, Erik&Me oder Splatterdandy, während man auf Shirley etwa auch noch im Noise-Avantrock-Quartett Monno zusammen mit der halben Swiftmachine stößt. Solche impliziten Querverweise auf das Lissabonner Label Creative Sources, Sammelbecken für die flachen und diskreten Facetten aktueller Improvisationskunst, sind durchaus auch Indiz für die bruitistischen Klangarrangements von Hotelgäste. Dröhnminimalistische Plateaus, fein differenzierte Dynamikschwankungen und immer wieder auch Momente der Beinahestille wechseln sich ab im Versuch, Spannung anders zu definieren und Zweifel zu wecken an dem, was wir über die Audiowelt zu wissen meinen. Viele Klangeffekte der minutiösen Feinarbeit im Dunkel der CD lassen sich nur schwer auf das genannte Instrumentarium zurückführen. Da fordert die Finesse der Kreation die Einbildungskraft des Hörsinnes heraus. Ein stethoskopisches Lauschen an den Wänden zu benachbarten Hotelzimmern, mit Kontaktmikrophonen an den Grenzen von Lilliput. Was wir hören, sind die Geräusche der Wand, der Oberflächen, das Dahinter und Darunter bleibt halluzinatorisch. Nicht nur der Banjo-Klingklang als Auftakt zu Sleepy Lady, der dann zum CD-Hänger gerinnt, hat so etwas Illusionistisches, als ob sich die Phantasie, elektronisch gepierct, sich selber Streiche spielt. Das auf alle möglichen Spektakel geeichte Alltagsbewusstsein versagt und beugt sich verdutzt über ein ominöses Karnickelloch.
Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY (D) 01/2006

Cool. These guys make use of guitar, bass, Clarinet, alt-saxophone, and zither to create a dreamy textured semi-minimal dabble into madness. This sounds like freeform improvisation, but it has a denser and more serious feel than most bands of their ilk. It’s all still very abstract and unstructured, but there is an underlying tone here which is a bit gloomy. I kind of picture a dark foggy haunted lighthouse when I listen to this. I find this CD very interesting to explore with the eyes closed and the mind wide open. This sound conjures. To be able to do that off the cuff is a pretty tall demand. It is pretty impressive when a band succeeds. This band succeeds. That’s why Hotelgaste keeps my attention when many other improvisation groups only keep me for 1-2 listens.
NEO-ZINE (USA) 12/2005

A play of reciprocal influences in constant metamorphosis, taking silence as starting point, defines its boundaries time and again through careful listening. Miking and extended techniques propose a process of linguistic abstraction, complementarily phrased and biased towards horizontal, static stances where apparent permanence turns out deceptive. //Juego de influencias recíprocas en constante metamorfosis, con el silencio como punto de partida, definiendo sus límites una y otra vez mediante una cuidadosa escucha. Microfonización y técnicas ampliadas para un proceso de abstracción complementario y tendente al planteamiento horizontal y microscópico donde la aparente permanencia resulta no serlo.
MODISTI.COM (E) 01/2006

Das Berliner Trio spielt improvisierte Musik, die sich doch über weite Strecken nicht nach konventioneller Improvisation anhört. An Klarinette, Altsaxophon und Zither ist Michael Thieke zu hören, die aus Montreal stammenden Musiker Dave Bennett und Derek Shirley an Gitarre und Bass. Die Musik der Hotelgäste lebt von Zurückgenommenheit. Klanganballungen bleiben meist abstrakt, die Instrumente häufig nicht mehr identifizierbar. Mit einem klassischen Einsatz von Blasinstrumenten hat Thiekes Spiel nur noch wenig zu tun, so wie auch die verdichteten Momente, die auf lange Ruhephasen folgen, kaum mehr den Freejazz beerben. Die Erkundung von Geräusch und das Ausweiten der Klangsprache über den konventionellen Gebrauch der Instrumente hinaus, knüpft eher an die Tradition von AMM oder Derek Bailey an, stellenweise aber auch den Minimalismus von Künstlern aus dem Staalplaat-Kontext
Martin Büsser, TESTCARD (D) 04/2006

UnAMERICAN ACTIVITIES #80-Michael Thieke. With the notion of regular working groups seemingly as fanciful as the tales of the Brothers Grimm, reedist Michael Thieke, like many other players of his generation has been forced to improvise in more than just his solos.  Living alternately in Berlin and Rome, Thieke, 34, who plays alto saxophone, clarinet, and alto clarinet, is a member of many groups that straddle the approximate boundaries of free jazz, improvised music, and new music. His best-known association is with Gebhard Ullman’s clarinet trio that also includes Jürgen Kupke. Evidently secure sharing space with other reed players—other bands he’s in feature Alessandro Bosetti or Kai Fagaschinski—two of his newest affiliations find him as the only reed player in a trio situation. Equally notable, each CD offers up an opposite view of his dexterity. Nickendes Perlgras’ Meat Hat (Konnex) emphasizes the brisk, brassy qualities implicit in a woodwind when it’s voiced with trumpet and drums. Moodier, with Thieke partnered by a guitarist and a bassist, Hotelgäste’s Flowers You Can Eat (Schraum) is also tinged with electronic implications. The reedist recorded with German percussionist Eric Schaefer and Berlin-based, Seattle native, trumpeter Michael Anderson in 2002. Together, they make up Nickendes Perlgras. Alternately, Hotelgäste features the Düsseldorf-born reedist interacting with two other North Americans, but younger Canadians this time. Both now living in Berlin, they’re graduates of Montreal’s McGill University music program and have played together for a dozen years. Bassist Derek Shirley has also worked with Australian flutist Jim Denley, while guitarist Dave Bennett plays in pop and improv bands. Even though it’s shorter—38 minutes to Meat Hat’s 48—and both are fully improvised, Flowers has the slight edge. Made up of only six instant compositions, the three players have more scope to investigate the music’s nuances than is available to the different trio on the other CD’s 16 [!] tracks. More to the point, ten of Meat Hat’s improvisations are in the terse one- and two-minute range, with only one allowed a sustained five minutes. Conversely, with only one tune shorter than three minutes and one almost 14, ample opportunity exists to develop an interface on Flowers. Not that anything is in-your-face. Dense timbres, sonic juxtapositions and structural quiet are as much a part in the tunes as clearly defined instrumental sounds. Most encompass single finger guitar string taps, lengthy expelling of colored air from the horn’s body tube plus intricate buzzed double bass vibrations. Many times the vibrations are reminiscent of Onkyo, or near-silent Japanese reductionist sounds. The nearly 14-minute “Sleepy Lady”, for instance, seems to float on an unexpected convergence of finger-picked Mississippi blues lines, the hiss of reed-expelled colored air, and near ring-modulator clanging. As the picking becomes more regularized, it nearly vanishes into rubbed oscillations, clicking pulses, and curved squeals. Transmogrified into rumbles and buzzes, intermittent flattement and irregular vibrato from Thieke’s reed mark time with low flutters and interference rumbles form the stringed instruments. Before Shirley rubs crackles from his strings, snickering reed timbres introduce the steady echo of what sounds like a draining car motor. Eventually the mushrooming drone is superseded by electronically produced thumps that dissolve into silence.With the reedist also listed as playing zither, these additional string textures may add to the ruffled and rumbled pulsations that characterize the session. Bennett adds to them by rasping his six-strings below the bridge and banging his fretting hand on the neck as clarinet and arco bass harmonize. Yet among the crescendo of hissing amp timbres and resonant bass pitches, insect-like reed squeaks, or colored noise clicks confirm that Thieke remains engaged enough to contribute specific textures.You don’t have to be as cognizant of instruments’ extended techniques on Meat Hat, since as early as the initial track Schaefer and Thieke showcase so-called legitimate tones. Well, more accurately these are the legit tones you’d hear both in the concert hall and the nightclub. That’s because the drummer’s rambling semi-march tune that introduces the CD has him playing with Baby Dodds-like clattering toms and snare press rolls, while the clarinetist exhibits an a fluid texture that’s ultimate genesis was with pioneering Johnny Dodds of the Hot Five. Still, classic jazz allusions are more felt than heard. As a matter of fact, except for an outburst of Keith Moon-like paradiddles and flams from the drummer on Thieke’s “Erich (für Erich Fried)”, the allusions are more toward Ornette Coleman’s initial quartet with cornetist Don Cherry, or the LP on which John Coltrane played with Cherry. Snorting long-lines from Anderson and an intense Trane-like alto saxophone line even show up on “Für Jimmy Giuffre”, although the American clarinetist would probably feel more at home with Hotelgäste than this band.Clanking drum pats, cymbal slaps, trilling reeds, and trumpet grace notes often coalesce on these jaunty anthems. But longer tracks with different tempi could have provided more variety. For instance, “An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces” [whew!] may offer a great wiggling clarinet line, fan-belt flapping percussion, and some strained Don Cherry-like licks from Anderson, but the piece is almost over in the time to takes to read the title out loud.Flashes of fanciful triplets and plunger growls from the trumpeter, alto clarinet ostinato and woody chalumeau licks from the reedman, and cymbal patterning and bass drum bounces from the drummer may impress, yet each vanishes in the foreshortened time frame. The few times the trio opens up the tunes for call-and-response horn vamping and cross-handed stick work from Schaefer are also the most memorable.Undoubtedly Thieke and his associates have many CDs ahead of them and more likely than not Nickendes Perlgras will find an alternative to the micro-tunes on which it’s so far fixated. Similarly it will be worthwhile to note what Hotelgäste does in a longer recital displaying a variety of moods
Ken Waxman, ONE FINAL NOTE (USA) 01/2006

Mezi Berlínem a Římem pendlující klarinetista a saxofonista Michael Thieke je živou definicí tvůrĊí svobody. Člen mnoha formací je doma tam, kde se stýká souĊasný jazz, nová hudba a volná minimalistická improvizace. Neexistuje však bod, z něhož by bylo možné jeho tvorbu uchopit, vyložit. Novým důkazem je debut jeho kvarteta Unununium, který vyšel na progresivní vídeňsko-berlínské Charizmě. Hudba je opřena o hutný základ inteligentní, ne však intelektuálské Dereka Shyrleyho (basa) a Thiekova Ċastého spoluhráĊe Erica Schaefera (bicí). Největším objevem je ale akordeonista Luca Venitucci , který dobře zvládá i preparované piano. Většina skladeb je vystavěna z prostinkých melodií resp. melodických fragmentů, které hráĊi trpělivě opracovávají. Nezřídka je soukolí skladby poháněno jen dvou- až Ċtyřtónovou kombinací, o to víc ale překvapí, co všechno jsou Thieke a spol. z tohoto absolutního minima schopni vyždímat.Svou dobrou techniku dává Thieke na odiv velmi zřídka, hlavně v energické Nach aussen gewölbte Mönche. PosluchaĊsky vděĊný je dialog s Venituccim, kontinuálně podporovaný verzatilní basou a bohatým arzenálem Schaeferových zvonků, chrastítek a kovových plíšků. Album tvoří přepestrou paletu velim různorodých kusů, jako celek ale nepostrádá vnitřní soudržnost a je poměrně dobře přístupné (což lze ve světě volné improvizace považovat za raritu). Pravděpodobně si najde ještě větší poĊet příznivců než Meat Hat jiného Thiekova projektu, Nickendes Perlgras (viz HV 2/06), oproti jehož vypointovaným mikroskladbám dává tento hráĊům zasloužený větší prostor k vyjádření. S triem Hotelgästa vstupujeme zase do trochu jiného světa, i když Thiekův rukopis se neztrácí. Jestliže Where shall I fly not to be sad, my dear? nerezignuje minimálně na ozvěnu jazzových postupů, Flowers you can eat už plně koupe v pomalu budovaných abstraktních plochách, v nichžustupují melodie a víceméně i rytmus do ústraní. Výsledek, který by mohl oslovit příznivce souĊasného ambientu, je osvěžující. Hravost a totální zaujetí zvukem vytěsnily jakoukoli stopu jazzové virtuozity. Hutné a trochu potemnělé drony se pomalu hromadí, kulminují a zase odeznívají- viz hlavně vulkanickou Moto. V táhlých, jemně modulovaných tónech dechů lze hledat asi jedinouspojnici s Unununiem. Improvizace Hotelových hostů (vedle Thieka kytarista Dave Bennett a opět basista Derek Shirley). ale ještě radikálněji sází na objevování nových zvukových dimenzí nástrojů, k Ċemuž slouží jak rozsáhlý rejstřík nestandardních hráĊských technik, tak zvukové možnosti studia. Výstavních kousků nalezneme na albu víc, emblematicky ale působí téměř Ċtvrthodinová Sleepy Lady, kterou udržuje v napětí jednoduchá kytarová smyĊka, jež v poslední třetině zaĊne zpomalovat. Typickým rysem nahrávky je vyvážený poměr mezi nevtíravou elektronikou a akustickými prvky. Nic naplat, Thieke je stylotvůrce na vrcholu sil.
Tomáš Marvan, HIS VOICE (CZ) 09/2006

Avec un usage très tempéré de la dissonance et des chocs sonores, le trio produit une musique bruitiste/environnementaliste enveloppante et assez douce où on discerne parfois au loin des souvenirs de musiques extra-européenne. La musique est pleine, avec peu d'événements et peu de silences. Dans cette évolution lente l'oreille s'intéresse à des riens qui s'harmonisent dans ces morceuax de durée moyenne (vers 5 minutes), pas assez pour lasser et suffisamment pour créer des univers très satisfaisants et construits. La douceur générale n'empeche pas des montées aux extremes, des moments plus rauques, passages obligés où l'intensité se mue en violence ou en angoisse.
Noël Tachet, IMPROJAZZ (F) 05/2007