Peter Madsen/Alfred Vogel

I Ching

Brevity, conceptual overview and controlled freedom are among the hallmarks of this inviting, venturesome duet project from veteran pianist Peter Madsen and Austrian drummer Alfred Vogel. Underscoring the recording’s sonic fruits are elements of chance operation, hence the album title, I Ching—the ancient Chinese system, which served as a determining factor in the shape and titling of the pair’s improvisations, and also was a source of inspiration for John Cage.

Whereas many free-minded improvisational projects savor the sprawl of extended tracks, this duo keeps each piece compact and focused. Over the course of 16 tracks, a variety of textural and attitudinal approaches are scattered and balanced. The sum effect is mosaic-like, built on the strength of disparate parts feeding an integrated whole. Atonal, yet crisply, articulated piano flurries set a modernist stage for the album on the opening track, “Fire/Light Over Wind,” but rumbling toms and alien autoharp-like strum of the piano strings aim for a more atmospheric objective on the following tune, “Thunder Over Deep Water.”

The lyrical aside of “Earth Over Heaven” segues into the rumbling turbulence of “Deep Water Over Thunder,” and later, the jagged conversation of prepared piano and fervent percussion on “Lake/Marsh Over Fire/Light” fans out over the ethereal terrain of “Mountain Over Mountain.”

With minimal instrumental means and generous intercommunication skills, the pair has conjured an impressive artistic statement in the realm of free music.