The predominantly Viennese quartet Polwechsel have exhaustively explored the grey areas between composition and improvisation, electronic and acoustic, jazz and classical for much of the past decade. Austrian Christian Fennesz, while initially a guitarist, is primarily known for his abrasive yet melodic laptop explorations on labels such as Mego and Touch. Wrapped Islands documents the much-anticipated first meeting of these two driving forces of contemporary music.
Bassist Werner Dafeldecker and cellist Michael Moser co-founded Polwechsel in 1993, joined by guitarist Burkhard Stangl and trombonist Radu Malfatti. The microscopic textures they explored were quite unusual at the time, and proved to be very influential on later waves of 'lower-case' and 'microsound' musicians. They released their self-titled debut disc on Georg GrŠwe's influential Random Acoustics label in 1995 (later reissued on hat ART). Radu Malfatti left the band in 1997 to concentrate exclusively on his own musical ideas, and was replaced by saxophonist John Butcher, who has been a crucial part of the band ever since, on Polwechsel 2 (hat ART), Polwechsel 3 (Durian), and Wrapped Islands.
Christian Fennesz is possibly the most prominent of the current onslaught of laptop musicians. He burst onto the scene in 1995, with Instrument, a record of deconstructed guitar compositions, and has since explored various combinations of guitar and laptop, melody and distortion, improvisation and postproduction on projects such as Hotel ParaI.lel, Plays, and Endless Summer (all on Mego). HeÕs also an integral member of the all-star electronic orchestra MIMEO and the laptop trio Fennoberg.
In January of 2002, the five musicians gathered in Christof Amann's Viennese studios for three days of recordings, from which Wrapped Islands was assembled. While the first three Polwechsel releases almost exclusively contain compositions, Wrapped Islands is fully improvised. The warmth and depth of the music induces an illusory simplicity, with different details and passages emerging to the surface with each listen, all of which is superbly paralleled by Friederike Paetzold's eye-catching design.