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Friday, May 27, 2011

Nate Wooley - Trumpet/Amplifier (Smeraldina-Rima 2011) *****

By Joe Higham

This is one of the strangest records I've listened to in a while, and yet it's also an easy record to give 5 stars to simply because what you hear on this record defies any expectations of what a solo trumpet record, even with an amplifier, would or should sound like. It's this second element, the amplifier, which defines the outcome of Nate Wooley's sound explorations. I use the expression 'sound exploration' as what you hear on this record is anything but music in conventional terms, more an exploration of the sonic possibilities of a trumpet. Wooley investigates the various sounds produced (and not normally heard), brought to the fore via the amplifier, a kind of microscopic sound-view of a brass instrument. Others before have also found new directions on which to experiment such as Evan Parker, Joelle Leandre, Derek Bailey, or more recently trumpeter Alex Boney, and it seems that Nate Wooley is following in the same direction, looking to find new ways of using his instrument.

As for the LP itself. Side One has two tracks : 1) Trumpet A, 2) Trumpet B. Side Two, one track titled quite simply 'Amplifier'. I can imagine looking at this you wonder if it's possible to keep ones attention throughout, and if so are the tracks that different. The answer in both cases is 'yes, no problem'. The opening track takes you a short while to enter into and understand what you're actually listening to, but once you've 'caught on' the rest is just 'sit back and listen'. Even if the sounds are abstract to begin with, little by little you hear Nate Wooley's thinking process unfold as he uses both sound and rhythm in these improvisations which at times sound like early computer generated sound. In fact whilst watching a performance of this music I noticed he not only blows into the trumpet, but sometimes spits, blows at, talks, hits, and sings into his instrument, a more physical approach than the standard playing technique. The three tracks passed by as if in the blink of an eye and I ended up placing the needle back at the beginning as if to confirm what I'd heard, after all did I just hear a trumpet record where no actually brass (musical) note was sounded?

I can recommend this album to all who are interested by new sounds, techniques and their possibilities. Of course if you're into the sound experiments of the likes of Schaeffer, Stockhausen, or even certain moments of Supersilent etc, you'll be quite comfortable with this music, like old friends. I'd love to hear how Wooley and Paul Lytton combine these sonic possibilities in there duo CD reviewed elsewhere. One should note that this is a limited edition of 495 LPs, so if you're interested you better get your copy whilst it's available.

As Stef would say ..... highly recommended!

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bstry said...

Great review of a great record. I saw Mr. Wooley perform live with a microphone (amplifier) and a solo trumpet and it felt like hearing the history of sound. Thanks for tackling this avant disc.

joesh said...

Hi @ bstry

I'm glad you liked the review, it's a difficult disc to actually describe, without making it sound silly*.

I also thought that it was maybe better to leave some of it to the imagination of the listener .... if that makes sense!

- Joe

* = you'll understand if you've heard the record.

StunningSZ said...

I've just received Nate Wooley's vinyl record Trumpet/ Amplifier. The only thing I can hear on that record are some crackles. Is it that avant-garde or maybe my copy of vinyl is somehow broken?