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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weekend Roundup: Dynamic Duos

By Dan Sorrells

This week we look at a variety of pairings: some barely more than a whisper, others with buzzing, whirling electronics, even some inspired by construction workers. (Plus! A soprano sax gets in a scuffle with a cello).

Taus - Pinna (Another Timbre, 2012) ***

Taus, the duo of Tim Blechmann and Klaus Filip, get a gold star for patience. Pinna -a live recording from a small Viennese church-is 50 minutes of quietly, carefully added and subtracted layers of sine waves. The restraint on display as each musician gently goads various sonorities out of their laptops is impressive, even in an era where musicians no longer fear silence or tiny, cumulative gestures. The recording captures the feel of the concert well, during which speakers were strategically placed in the church and sounds were allowed to refract and diffuse throughout the space. Pinna was probably far more impressive for those in attendance, but it offers some pleasures if you can set aside a quiet hour with a good sound system.

Another Timbre YouTube preview

Bruno Duplant & Barry Chabala - La Nuit (Roeba, 2012) ***

La Nuit is a heap of droning low-end crafted long distance, an MO that Chabala has experimented with on a least one other release this year. Three long tracks of rich tones, everything bleeding together like submerged watercolors. Who's doing what is neither discernable nor essential for enjoyment. For the most part, La Nuit is warm and easy to adjust to, which makes the sudden long breaks of silence in "After 916" a tad disappointing-they violently halt the comfortable modes of listening roused by the preceding sounds. But maybe that's the whole point. "Far a Go" and the title track are a bit more animated, with Chabala dropping delicate notes through the fields of feedback.

Pascal Battus, Bertrand Gauguet, Eric La Casa - Chantier 1 (Another Timbre, 2012) ***

Though the binding theme this week is duos, Chantier 1 actually credits three musicians. Only two are playing, per se, but anyone familiar with Eric La Casa's unique recording credits is well aware that his technical choices leave a profound thumbprint on the resulting music. Battus' "rotating surfaces" and Gauguet's saxophone collude in two situations: the middle of a bustling construction site, and in a "neutral, quiet space," where the musicians attempt to remember and recreate the experience of improvising along with the sweaty din of the worksite. Naturally, it's the "field" recordings that provide the most interest. It becomes difficult to separate improviser from ambient sound. The standout moment-which somehow feels both surreal and grounding-is the sudden appearance of Kurdish flute, a contribution from a worker's smartphone, thrust into the proceedings in an attempt to reconcile two disparate musical worlds.

Another Timbre YouTube preview

Dale Gorfinkel & Heddy Boubaker - Out Ear/In Head (self-released, 2012) ***

Out-Ear/In-Head is kind of what I imagine you'd hear if you pressed your ear up against someone else's---the hum and buzz of a billion crossed wires, the fitful shifting of countless neural transactions. What I initially thought was Boubaker's sax may actually be Gorfinkel's prepared trumpet-I later discovered that the protean Boubaker hangs up his saxophone in favor of analog synth, which he threads through Gorfinkel's thoroughly-obscured horn and "sound sculptures." Though there's something reminiscent of the quiet, internal processes of a complex machine, Out Ear/In Head is actually quite easy to relate to. What it really seems to capture is the nature of our restless thoughts from a new angle: that of pure electrical impulse, synaptic squabbling made audible. The sound of neurons improvising.

Listen to the album on Heddy Boubaker's Bandcamp page.

Gianni Mimmo & Daniel Levin - Turbulent Flow (Amirani, 2012) ****

Daniel Levin is intense. He plays as though he's never satisfied. His virtuosity on the cello seems to be a direct manifestation of his passion; there's simply no way some limit can be allowed to prevent his ideas from being realized. Turbulent Flow's lengthy title track neatly sums things up, with Mimmo's splashes of soprano trying everywhere to put out Levin's flames. Skilled as they are in free jazz battle, they're also able to conjure up creepy ambience in "Orbit Unknown," or even some bluesy turns halfway through "Mini-festo." Exciting music from some profoundly talented guys.

Mimmo has posted the entire album on his SoundCloud page.