Between was named Between because the music they made was sitting between the chairs back then and was reaching far beyond genre borders or the traditional segregation of E- and U-Musik (E for “ernst” / serious, U für “unterhaltende” / entertaining). This difference may be still alive in some highbrow dinosaur’s brain and was (sometimes still is) made to separate the so called popular (i.e. proletarian) from the bourgeois culture. Alas, today’s situation is more comfortable (and difficult to a certain extend). But, this is a review for a record not a sociology seminar talking Bourdieu’s “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste” or something like that. (But, well, while I’m at it: go read it, it’s worth it!)
So, Between was Peter Michael Hamel’s brainchild who is a German composer and music theorist (whose records are all great!). Born out of friendship with a few international friends who had a background either in classical or pop music (to stress that distinction again). “And The Waters Opened” was their second record, released in 1973 and it’s heavily influenced by the music of Carl Orff. (Listen to Robert Eliscu’s oboe – which can also be heard on a lot of Popol Vuh records –and if you’re familiar with some of Orff’s music you’ll be reminded instantly). Another reference to how Between sounds may be found in Bobby Beausoleil’s Orkustra which also can be seen as sort of a synthesis between a symphonic orchestra and a psychedelic band.
But even though Between is about overcoming musical (and also social borders) the music is far from freak-out jams. Between is not about provoking utter chaos – Between is about reaching out for a universal harmony in the act of making music. It is – to a certain extend – a sonic utopia.
There are parts of the music that are improvised but most of it was written down before and is executed with modest but nonetheless masterful musicianship. The compositions take cues from the aforementioned Carl Orff, but also from Indian Classical Music, from the Spiritual Jazz and some of the Minimal Music that was around at that time and of course there’s a good portion of Psychedelia thrown in. Every second recorded sounds organic and you can bet that a lot of thought was put into it. And it is in fact a certain compositional rigour that prevents the music from becoming world-music-kitsch or pointless fusion-music: The music you hear is not just about the intended harmony – the music IS the realization of that harmony.
So, you don’t trust me, you think I’m exaggerating here? No problem, get some Between and trust your ears! Be it the wonderful title track or the following “Uroboros” or be it one of the other compositions: this is joyful and refreshing music. The instrumentation’s colourful and the general vibe is uplifting and –well, yeah – it’s just great to have some music around that is full of positive energy without being besmirched with esoteric blurb. It makes you feel good without having to leave your mind at home! A great achievement, if you ask me.