The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Georg Graewe Quintet:
Amsterdam, October 1998 (Random Acoustics)

Recorded in concert at Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum in 1998, legendary pianist Georg Graewe's Quartet with Frank Gratkowski on alto saxophone & clarinet, Kent Kessler on double bass, and Hamid Drake on drums present a tour-de-force of passion, technique and creative drive in an epic 53 minute improvisation from high energy to reflective stretches; superb! ... Click to View


Georg Graewe:
Stills And Stories (Random Acoustics)

German pianist and Euro Free Jazz stalwart Georg Graewe in his first solo release in more than a decade, a remarkable set of succinct compositions balancing astonishing technical skills with beautifully expressive playing, presented in several series of "stills" and "stories". ... Click to View


Frederick Galiay (Viard / Sebastien / Boudart / Galiay):
Time Elleipsis (Ayler)

Dramatic, darkly thrilling with moments of sheer beauty, from French electric bassist Frederick Galiay and his Camaeleo Vulgaris ensemble, a sextet performing Galiay's compositions in a potent mix of electric guitar, electrified baritone sax, synthesizer, and two drummer/percussionists, recorded after a dozen live concerts honing the material to this riveting studio version. ... Click to View


Francois Carrier / Tomek Gadecki / Matcin Bozek / Michel Lambert:
Wide (FMR)

A burning album of collective free jazz from Canadian compatriots Francois Carrier on alto saxophone and Michel Lamber on drums, on a spring tour of Europe, performing at Polands MOZG in Byrgoszcz, hope of the MOZG Festival, with Polish tenor saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki amd bassist Mracin Bozen, also on French Horn, in an exhilarating set of three extended improvisations. ... Click to View


Thollem / Parker / Cline:
Gowanus Sessions II [VINYL] (ESP)

Free collective improvisation with an electronic edge from the trio of Nels Cline, double bassist William Parker and pianist Thollem McDonas, following up on their 2012 "Gowanus Session I" recorded in the same studio space, here expanding on the 1st session's shorter works with two large and evolving improvisations that balance reflective moments with intensive playing. ... Click to View


Werner Dafeldecker :
Parallel Darks [VINYL] (Room40)

Viennese-born, Berlin-based electro-acoustic composer Werner Dafeldecker (Polwechsel, Fennesz, &c) creates an intense and beautiful musique concrete and acousmatic journey in two parts, examining "perspective, extreme subjectivity and the specters that haunt our auditory worlds" through mysterious sound and enveloping sonic construction, a profound and riveting work. ... Click to View


Skeleton Crew (Frith / Cora):
Learn to Talk [VINYL] (ReR Vinyl)

Reissuing the first of two albums from the NY collaboration of guitarist Fred Frith and cellist Tom Cora, both providing vocals, percussion, violin, & bass, in a classic example of Downtown NY genre-merging of improvisation and rock with a vicious edge, in smart songs and even smarter instrumental sections, an insanely inventive and intelligent album as vital now as it was then. ... Click to View


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.:
Minstrel In The Galaxy [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (RIOT SEASON)

... Click to View


Leap Of Faith:
Cosmic Distance Ladder (Evil Clown)

The core trio of the Leap of Faith Orchestra comprising multi-reedist & wind player David Peck, also on percussive devices, with Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic and voice, and Yuri Zbitnoff on drums & percussions, with special guests Kat Dobbins on trombone and Bob Moores on trumpet & flugelhorn, in an evolving set of strong harmonic, percussive & lyrical interaction. ... Click to View


Gen Montgomery Ken:
Endogeny [CASSETTE] (Tribe Tapes)

Sound and Visual artist Gen Ken Montgomery released this album on cassette on the Directions Music label in 1990, here reissued in 2020; the two side-long pieces were performed live and then remixed, using a mixture of tapes, concrete and mechanical sounds alongside love instrumentation of percussion, violin, voice, &c, sometimes stark, always fascinating. ... Click to View


Jean Derome:
Somebody Special (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Drawing on Steve Lacy's quintet, Montreal saxophonist Jean Derome pays homage to the late saxophonist through a selection of 9 Lacy pieces with lyrics from Brion Gysin, Lao Tseu, Herman Melville, &c, in a quintet with Derome on alto sax, bass flute & voice, Karen Young providing vocals, Alexandre Grogg on piano, Normand Guilbeault on double bass, Pierre Tanguay on drums. ... Click to View


Ensemble SuperMusique / Symon Henry:
voir dans le vent qui hurle les étoiles rire et rire (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Montreal's true supergroup since 1998 of some of the city's essential Musique Actuelle performers and composers, directed by Danielle Palardy Roger and including Jean Derome, Joane Hetu, Scott Thomson, Lori Freedman, Alexander St. Onge, &c. &c., take on Quebec composer Symon Henry's piece, performed in an exceptional and impressive concert in the Chapel in Bon-Pasteur. ... Click to View


Gabriel Dharmoo :
Quelques fictions (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Stunningly unusual vocal music from composer, music researcher and vocalist based in Montreal, Gabriel Dharmoo, collecting works from 2012 to 2019, performed with small and large ensembles using almost completely wordless voice, utterance, guttural sound, swoops and, melodic flights, augmented with physical percussion like stamping and clamping; brilliant and enthralling. ... Click to View


Prevost / Solberg / Pettersen / Moore / Brice / Hardie-Bick:
Plumes of Ash in Moonlight [2 CDs] (Split Rock Records)

Bringing together two innovative improvising percussionists--Eddie Prevost of AMM fame, and Stale Liavik Solberg (VCDC, John Butcher)--for a studio album of wide-ranging and sometimes hair-raising electroacoustic improvisation, recorded live and unedited with Olie Brice on double bass, Tony Hardie-Bick on piano & tapes, Ed Pettersend on lap steel, and NO Moore on guitar. ... Click to View


Ken Vandermark / Paal Nilssen-Love Duo:
AMR (NO LABEL)

The long-running duo of Chicago saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark and Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love are heard in this live concert at AMR in Geneva, Switzerland in 2018, performing the first four letters of the alphabet ("A", "B", "C" & "D"), each letter a unique creative approach in evolving their remarkable and enthralling dialogs. ... Click to View


Decoy (Alexander Hawkins / John Edwards / Steve Noble) With Joe McPhee:
AC/DC (Otoroku)

The UK Decoy trio of John Edwards (bass), Steve Noble (drums) and Alexander Hawkins (keys) joins forces with pocket trumpet and saxophone player Joe McPhee during McPhee's residency at London's Cafe OTO, recording these two huge sets of brilliant free improv, Hawkins performing on organ adding a unique and soulful tone to the set that balances powerful energy with innate lyricism. ... Click to View


John Carter Octet:
Dauwhe [VINYL] (Black Saint Vinyl)

A much-needed reissue of John Carter's 1982 LP "Dauwhe", the first chapter in his "Roots and Folklore" saga, a 5-part epic through African American heritage, performed with Carter himself on clarinet, Bobby Bradford (cornet), James Newton (flute), Charles Owens (sax, oboe & clarinet), Red Callender (tuba), Roberto Miranda (bass), William Jeffrey (drums), and Luis Peralta (percussion). ... Click to View


Philip Samartzis / Eric La Casa :
Captured Space [CASSETTE] (Cronica)

Kruger National Park in the north-east corner of South Africa is the subject of Eric La Casa and Philip Samartzis's audio exploration, using field recordings made over 10 days in and around the park, and taking them into the studio to organize them into an aural representation of the park's exotic mystery, placidity and tension, with a tinge of the modern world nearby. ... Click to View


Laboratorio Della Quercia:
Laboratorio Della Quercia [VINYL 2 LPs] (Alternative Fox)

Documenting the 12-day Italian experimental jazz festival at the ancient amphitheater Tasso della Quercia in 1978, revolving around Italian improvsers Tommaso Vittorini, Eugenio Colombo, Maurizio Giammarco, Alberto Corvini, Danilo Terenz, with visiting players Steve Lacy, Steve Potts, and Evan Parker, trombonist Roswell Rudd, pianist Frederick Rzewski, and drummer Noel McGhee. ... Click to View


Turbulence:
Eddy Flux (Evil Clown)

The extended horn section for the Leap of Faith Orchestra from the Boston-area collective led by reedist/multi-instrumentalist David Peck, here with PEK on an assortment of saxophones, clarinets, flutes, game calls and percussion, the other horns from Michael Caglianone on sax, game calls, wind sirens and percussion, with drums, bells, bowls and other percussion from Yuri Zbitnoff. ... Click to View


Ratchet Orchestra:
Coco Swirl (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Active since the early 90's, the superb Montreal super-group Ratchet Orchestra under the direction of Nicolas Caloia with 19 performers presents 10 works including the title track, with soloists including Jean Rene, Lori Freedman, Jean Derome, Ellwood Epps, Sam Shalabi, Craig Petersen, Yves Charuest, Joshua Zubot, Scott Thomson, Isaiah Ceccarelli, &c. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos :
Speak In Tongues And Hope For The Gift Of Interpretation (Relative Pitch)

Dedicating his pieces to Charlie Parker, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and John Zorn, NY alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos is heard live at this solo concert in New Haven, CT in 2019, reflecting on the history of jazz through his intense playing style that deploys incredible technique balanced with abstraction and rapid lyricism. ... Click to View


Raoul Bjorkenheim :
Solar Winds (Long Song Records)

Paying tribute to his musical inspiration John Coltrane, Finnish/NY electric guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim leads a quartet with Silvia Bolognesi on contrabass, Tiziano Tononi on drums & percussion, and Emanuele Parrini on violin, as they perform five Coltrane compositions and two Bjorkenheim originals, a superlative homage to technical brilliance and conceptual vision. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne / Duck Baker / Randy Hutton :
The Guitar Trio In Calgary 1977 (Emanem)

A concert recording from 1977 in Calgary, CA captured during Eugene Chadbourne's time in Canada prior to his move to NYC, from the guitar trio of Duck Baker, Randy Hutton & Eugene Chadbourne, performing on acoustic guitars, using a variety of approaches to improvising in trio, duo and solo configurations, with original work, an Ornette Coleman mashup, and a piece by Charlie Haden. ... Click to View


Company:
1983 [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)

Unreleased recordings from Derek Bailey's Company project, recorded at the BBC in 1983 with a stellar set of performers including Evan Parker (clarinet), Hugh Davies (electronics), Jamie Muir (percussion), Joelle Leandre (bass), J.D. Parran (winds), John Corbett (trumpet), Vinko Globokar (trombone), Ernst Reijseger (cello), and Peter Brotzmann (reeds). ... Click to View


Muhal Abrams Richard:
Celestial Birds [VINYL] (KARLRECORDS)

A compilation of works from the late Chicago multi-reedist, experimenter, and AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams, focused on his widely unknown electronic compositions, in four recording from 1968-1995 with collaborators including Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Amina Claudine Myers, Roscoe Mitchell, Maurice McIntyre, Yousef Yancey, Thurman Barker, &c. ... Click to View


Eric La Casa:
L'inspir du Rivage part 2&3 [VINYL 7-inch] (Povertech / Joe Colley)

First stock of this 1999 7" from French sound artist Eric La Casa created as part of Joe Colley's "Explorer" series, the title translating to "the shore breathing" where each composition develops from field recordings of water, the first part more naturalist and adhering to the initial recordings, the second using sound processing to create something unique and mesmerizing. ... Click to View


Rachel Musson / Naoko Saito / Audrey Lauro:
The Region Of Braille Responsibility [CD with English Braille Sheet] (Armageddon Nova)

Three female saxophonist from around the world--Rachel Musson (UK), Naoko Saito (Japan) and Audrey Lauro (Belgium)--in a compilation of solo saxophone works, two extended pieces from Musson and Satio, and four shorter works from Laura, with a CD insert with English Braille characters, and a QR code that, when scanned, plays the audio information for the album. ... Click to View


Musica Elettronica Viva:
United Patchwork [VINYL 2 LPs] (Alternative Fox)

A reissue of Musica Elettronica Viva's innovative 1978 open-structured album of free improvisation, United Patchwork, with the core performers of Frederic Rzewski on piano & electric piano, Richard Teitelbaum on synthesizer & conch shells, Alvin Curran on synthesizer & keys, plus Karl Berger on keys & vibraphone, Garrett List on trombone, and Steve Lacy on soprano sax. ... Click to View


Karkhana:
Bitter Balls [VINYL] (Unrock)

LP-only, no 7" single. The second full-length album from Karkhana, a septet featuring members of Dwarfs Of East Agouza, A "Trio", Konstrukt, Chicago Tentet, Land of Kush, among others in four compositions of "crystal clear and deep, dark, distorted unrock compositions" in both electric and acoustic instrumentation, an international genre-crossing album. ... Click to View


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The Squid's Ear
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Instrumentals
We've asked a number of musicians to write about their instruments of choice, taking a view that is either personal, historical or, in some cases, just unusual. The results are to be found in these pages.


  The Clarinet (& Chi)  


By Perry Robinson 2002-12-11

Perry Robinson
Perry Robinson    [Photo by Peter Gannushkin]
The clarinet is a very interesting instrument. Whereas the sax starts thin at the neck and gets broader at the bell, the clarinet is straight, and that makes a big difference between the clarinet and the sax's sound. Of all the instruments, the clarinet has the biggest difference between the lowest and highest sound, and that's what makes it unique. The clarinet has such a broad range that sometimes you need two mics to get a good recording, one to get the low register and another to get the high. It's also harder to play than the sax because on the sax if you want to play the same note an octave higher you just press an octave key with your thumb, but to go an octave higher on the clarinet you have to completely change your fingering. So that's probably one of the reasons the clarinet has a reputation for being difficult to learn.

Your sound definitely comes from your personality, and it's also the shape of your body, your embouchure and your breathing. Style is a fascinating thing to analyze. Two people can play the same instrument and get a totally different sound, like Coltrane and Sonny Rollins both playing tenor sax. Playing clarinet is a process of finding what's right for you in terms of your breathing, reeds and mouthpiece, but I would say that it's mostly breathing. All playing and singing comes from the diaphragm, which is the seat of life, of chi. Tony Scott's stomach was huge; it was full of chi, which is the main reason he got that huge sound. We should all develop our diaphragms, and we should all breathe from there. It's something that I worked on, and now I breathe that way almost without thinking. I don't do circular breathing when I play; I don't think I need it with my style of playing. It's good for certain things, like playing long lines without stopping, but I just take a deep breath for whatever I'm doing. Breathing deeply like that is good because you develop your lungs.

Mouth and throat techniques are also important. As I've discussed, I play using the double embouchure, which isn't done so often in jazz. You can also roll your "R"s while you play, which creates a certain sound. It's like a guttural "R" sound but not quite, it's more a "th" sound. If you want a raspy sound you make a rasping "Rrrrr" in your throat. The old players like Pee Wee Russell did a lot of that. The early vocabulary of jazz is very rich and emotional, it's full of people talking and yelling. If you think how people talk when they say something like, "Yeah, I'm gonna get you," it's that same kind of guttural voice. And there's a whole technique where you sing through your throat at the same time as playing. You sing a melody with yourself, which creates a double voice; many horn players have developed this to a high degree. There's also ways to create an overtone, which is another way of getting two sounds at once. It only works with the lowest fingering, but if you tighten your embouchure in a certain way you can do it.

Mouthpieces are important as well. Some horn players get obsessed, and they go through thousands of mouthpieces searching for the perfect one; it's like trying to find the holy grail of mouthpieces, or like looking for that perfect person. I didn't go that far, although I tried a lot of different products. In the old days instrument stores had boxes of old mouthpieces; you'd search through a box and find one you liked. Some didn't even have a brand on them, but they were cheap and you could find a good mouthpiece that way. I also tried a glass mouthpiece. Part of Tony Scott's early sound came from using a glass mouthpiece; it gives a different sound, and the feeling of glass is a whole other experience. Over the years I've gone through many mouthpieces. You find one you like, but then they break or you lose them or something else happens. Once in the mid-1990s at a place in New Jersey called Nature's Friends Farm somebody accidentally knocked my horn over and danced on it, and they split my mouthpiece. After that I got the one I use now, which is an old one I found at a store.

Reeds are also a big concern with horn players. Reeds are from cane, then they're machined so they're soft or hard. They're numbered one and up, with one being the softest. A student who's just starting plays 11/2, then as you get stronger you move up. Guys like Tony and Buddy would use 5 or 6, and that was part of their sound. Reeds are tricky; in a box of twenty-five you might find only three good ones. You fix them by sanding or molding, but that's an art in itself which I never got into. One trick I learned was that you can break in a reed by soaking it in milk, and I've told people that over the years. There are also reeds made out of synthetic materials, and lately I've been using a clear plastic one that I like a lot. The plastic ones come in soft, medium and hard, and I use the soft.

Then there's different combinations of reeds and mouthpieces. You can experiment using a hard reed with a closed mouthpiece or a soft reed with an open one. Coltrane was a great experimenter this way; he tried all kinds of combinations. In general I'd say that the harder the reed the more pressure it takes, so then you have to have a mouthpiece to compensate. There's lots of ways you can do it; you just try everything you can to get the right combination of sounds.

It's also important to find a repairman you trust. An instrument is like a person, and your repairman is like your doctor. Instruments are so delicate and technical; there's all these little springs and levers and tiny parts, and a good repairman really has to know what he's doing. I use Alex Kolpakchi, a wonderful guy who has a store at 701 7th Avenue in New York. He's a clarinet and sax player from Russia who came to America and got work as a repairman. I used to take my horn to another store on 48th Street, but I liked talking to Alex and started using him forrepairs. I bring my horns in for an overhaul or to fix something, and he sees other little technical problems that I didn't even notice. He's very good.

Alex also sells horns, and I got all my horns through him except my little one. All of my instruments are old. I always look for vintage horns because there are certain models that aren't made any more, and they made them so great in those days. A horn from the 1930s is just as good as one from today because the basics are the same, plus the old ones have a different quality that I prefer.

I have four horns: three B-flats and one E-flat. I have a beautiful old wooden horn from the 1950s, a Selmer Centertone. The funny thing about wood clarinets is that black is not the real color; it's really an uneven brown-white, the black is just a dye that became the standard color. Wood has a great sound, but the problem with wood is that if it gets wet it cracks. If a saxophone gets wet it's not that bad, but if a wood clarinet gets wet or too cold it cracks. That's why you see musicians cleaning their instruments all the time; you have to clean after you play because if the instrument stays wet and you go into another temperature the wood will crack. But cracks can be fixed. In the old days it was like surgery on a person, but now they have a very sophisticated method and it works well.

I also have a plastic clarinet, an Evette, which is the student model of Buffet. Every major instrument company has student models, and they're less expensive because they're plastic. There's a special soul feeling with wood, no doubt about it, but you really can't tell the difference between wood and plastic, and that's because companies like Buffet and Selmer use the same shape and mechanism in their plastic student models as their wooden models. My plastic clarinet is my all-purpose one; no one believes it, but I used it when I recorded Call to the Stars. It's the exact kind kids use in school marching bands, and I can take it out in any weather.

My silver clarinet is the one I use most professionally. In the early 1990s I saw it on a stand in Alex's store and I said, "What the hell is that? That's out." I tried it out, and I loved it. It's unique because the metal covers wood, which creates a special alchemy. People say it has a larger sound, a heavier sound like a soprano saxophone. There are very few of these in the world; it's a Selmer, but it must have been an experiment because nobody has ever seen one like it. We can't even find out what year it was made because the serial and model number are covered with metal. We know it's very old, though, because it's cracked and worn. I always take my silver clarinet on tour with me, and I always use it at recording sessions. People know about it; it's a signature thing. My other clarinets are beautiful too, and they're equally good in their way, but this one is unique.

There's a funny story about that clarinet. I had a benefit at the Hoboken High School with Gary Schneider and Gene Turonis, and I wanted to use it. Alex had fixed it, but the middle part was loose and it needed just that slight adjustment. He didn't think I should use it, but it was new and I really wanted to so he said, "Okay, just be aware of the loose part." Then right before I was about to go on the whole bottom of my clarinet fell, and I lost one of the five joints. When those things happen you go, "Oy! Oy gevalt!" I put the bottom back on, and luckily it was okay for the rest of the night.

Those are my three instruments of the soprano clarinet family. Then I have the E-flatsopranino that I got from Eckhard Kolterman. It's a Noblet, which is a subsidiary of LeBlanc. I love it; it's a mini-replica, a one-piece teeny-weeny. It's much more expensive than the others because the work is so delicate, and because it's a different size it has its own special sound. I use it for specific gigs, like when I playwith Dave, Perry, and Rande.

I have other instruments as well. I collect them because I like to have different little instruments around the house. I have a whole collection of flutes, both wood and plastic. My favorites are a wooden flute that my dad and mom brought me from Czechoslovakia, and a wooden Hawaiian flute called the Xaphoon. I had seen the Xaphoon advertised in Down Beat; it's known as the bamboo saxophone because although it's a flute it has a mouthpiece like a sax. The sound is so out; I use it with the group Cosmosis on some of our out music. I also have a few ocarinas, which are little clay instruments with four or so holes. You can hear me playing an ocarina on "Wahaila" on Angelology. I get them from an arts and crafts stand in Pike's Market in Seattle. Most of them come with a booklet that explains the fingering you're supposed to use, but I always throw those booklets out. That kind of fingering is good if you want to play "Yankee Doodle" or "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but it's more interesting to fool with the instruments, to make up your own fingerings and get sounds that way. You learn by playing, it's a Zen thing; you try everything, you go crazy and flip out and make all kinds of sounds.






reprinted from The Traveler by Perry Robinson and Florence Wetzel available at Squidco




Previous Instrumental Articles:
The Accordion (& the Outsider) - Pauline Oliveros
The Guitar (& Why) - Derek Bailey
The Banjo (& guitarist Johnny PayCheck) - Eugene Chadbourne
The Violin (& The Infidel) - Jon Rose


The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
sold at Squidco.com
written by
independent writers.

Squidco

Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Georg Graewe Quintet:
Amsterdam,
October 1998
(Random Acoustics)



Werner Dafeldecker:
Parallel Darks
[VINYL]
(Room40)



Skeleton Crew
(Frith /
Cora):
Learn to Talk
[VINYL]
(ReR Vinyl)



Frederick Galiay
(Viard /
Sebastien /
Boudart /
Galiay):
Time Elleipsis
(Ayler)



Decoy
(Alexander Hawkins /
John Edwards /
Steve Noble) With Joe McPhee:
AC/DC
(Otoroku)



Prevost /
Solberg /
Pettersen /
Moore /
Brice /
Hardie-Bick:
Plumes of Ash
in Moonlight
[2 CDs]
(Split Rock Records)



Ensemble SuperMusique /
Symon Henry:
voir dans le vent
qui hurle les
étoiles rire
et rire
(Ambiances Magnetiques)



Jean Derome:
Somebody Special
(Ambiances Magnetiques)



Raoul Bjorkenheim:
Solar Winds
(Long Song Records)



Ratchet Orchestra:
Coco Swirl
(Ambiances Magnetiques)



Company:
1983
[VINYL 2 LPs]
(Honest Jons Records)



Muhal Abrams Richard:
Celestial Birds
[VINYL]
(KARLRECORDS)



Rob Burke /
Ben Monder /
Tom Rainey /
Ben Grayson:
Slip Sliding
(FMR)



Astroturf Noise
(Harmet /
Nagano /
Swanson /
Martin /
Bernstein):
Astroturf Noise
(577)



Quatuor Bozzini:
Ana Sokolovic: Short Stories
(Collection QB)



Brunhild Ferrari /
Jim O'Rourke:
Le Piano Englouti
[VINYL]
(Black Truffle)



Will Guthrie:
Nist-Nah
(Black Truffle)



Luigi Archetti /
Bo Wiget:
Weltformat
(Die Schachtel)



Michael Formanek
Very Practical Trio
(w/ Tim Berne /
Mary Halvorson):
Even Better
(Intakt)



Aly Keita /
Jan Galega Bronnimann /
Lucas Niggli:
Kalan Teban
(Intakt)







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