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Friday, April 8, 2016

Axel Dörner, Roger Turner, Ra Ra da Boff – London Leipzig Berlin (Euphorium, 2015) ***½

If you have a look at the socio-economic conditions of improvised music you’ll find out that it is mostly an urban phenomenon. Most of the musicians live in metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Krakow or Vienna (to name just a few) because that is where you can find clubs and other musicians to jam with - in other words: a network. However, Axel Dörner (tp), Roger Turner (dr) and Ra Ra da Boff (electric organs, little instruments) try to find out if there is more to it and have named their album after the places they live - London Leipzig Berlin. The question is if these cities also have style-defining features for the process of improvising.

For the first time Roger Turner, one of the main protagonists of the British improvising scene, and Axel Dörner, the most important trumpeter of Berlin’s Echtzeit network, have joined forces here. Dörner’s trumpet is characterized by its formal severity and the attempt to find new, otherworldly sounds, something which can also be said about Turner’s way to play his drum kit. As in many of his collaborations he uses an arsenal of extended materials, and his contributions fizzle, clatter, rattle, scrape or jolt, rather than groove in a classic sense. It’s obvious that there is a huge intersection with Dörner’s vibrating, bubbling and muffled micro-environmental sounds, which creates a lot of high tension.

The glue that keeps these approaches together is Ra Ra da Boff, a pseudonym for Friedrich Kettlitz and Oliver Schwerdt (who enjoys using monikers like Birg Borgenthal or Elan Pauer). Of course the double Ra refers to Sun Ra and indeed it seems like two Sun Ras are sending pulsating signals from out of space that serve as spooky background buzz. Like electro-magnetic textures these organ sounds wobble through the improvisation, especially the bass booms in incredibly low frequencies (you need good speakers to enjoy this). Turner and Dörner sound as if they play in a shipyard, next to huge canvases whipped by a storm.

What appears a test arrangement built on the remnants of Art Brut is, in fact, the exact opposite: a clever creation of calculated differences like condensed drone clusters and tiny sound splinters, with an intensity that swells and ebbs away like bonfires that are kindled by sudden gusts of wind again and again.

This is indeed the soundtrack of cities at night, of the outskirts, the lonely places, industrial areas, tower blocks. If it is the specific sound of London, Leipzig and Berlin it is hard to tell. In any case, this is very urban music.

London Leipzig Berlin is available on CD. You can buy it from the label: