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Friday, April 3, 2015

Birgit Ulher and Leonel Kaplan - Stereo Trumpets (Relative Pitch, 2015) ***½

By Paul Acquaro

A few weeks back when writing about a group from Hamburg, Germany called Piho Hupo, I confessed that I knew little of the free jazz scene in that lovely city. Well, the picture is filling in just a little bit more with Birgit Ulher (left channel) and Leonel Kaplan’s (right channel) aptly titled recording Stereo Trumpet.

Ulher is from Hamburg and she expands upon the traditional approach to the trumpet by incorporating extended techniques and various electronics into her player. She also curates the Real Time Music Meeting series in the city. Kaplan, from Argentina, has been active in the avant-garde scene, recently recording with John Butcher and Christof Kurzmann, among other. On Stereo Trumpet the duo delivers an unusual collaboration that stretches the ears and provides an alternate view of the trumpet.

Ulher is credited with the trumpet as well as "radio, speaker, objects” and Kaplan simply with the trumpet, and together they concentrate on the fringes of tonality and traffic in textures. The sounds of air, spittle, clacking valves and half realized notes come together to fill their musical space. The sound they make is something to lose yourself in, to let wash over you like flowing water, to be a sensation rather than something to hold on to. A track-by-track description would be futile. The music, it seems, is something that both does and doesn't exist - you may just be hearing a throbbing undertone until you forget what you were listening at all, and then a splash of sound redirects your attention.

Stereo Trumpets is a fascinating trip into another world of sound - though it's not an action packed album, it contains a hypnotic motion created by subtle details and changes. Like last year's Bogan Ghost, Relative Pitch continues to showcase experimental music that pushes at the boundaries and leaves your appetite for musical adventure whetted.

Available at Instantjazz.