Published Jun 12, 2016Those who drifted toward the side stage expecting the sound of someone wailing away on saxophone can be easily forgiven for the mistake: Waclaw Zimpel is a fierce proponent of the alto clarinet, an underused member of the family that looks like a clarinet with a sax's reed and horn. The Polish polymath brought an unorthodox array of clarinets, synths and a khaen — a Thai mouth organ made of bamboo — to craft gorgeous, looping soundscapes that ranged from ambient electronic to free jazz, occasionally colliding the two for good measure.
The performance went from gorgeous to jaw-dropping with a late-set rendition of "Lines," the title track from his latest album. Preceded by a fascinatingly passionate khaen solo, Zimpel then looped a khaen riff to turn it into a bleeping electronic backbone before using the reed instruments to create an orchestral swell, merging electronic textures and woodwinds. Zimpel always seemed willing to innovate, as seen by his uncommon instrumental lineup and fascinating techniques, such as doing loop-de-loops with a clarinet around the microphone to make it a more peripheral texture, and it's this constant boundary pushing that gives Zimpel's slow-building soundscapes a unique sound.