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Thursday, November 5, 2020

Franz Hautzinger Round-Up

By Eyal Hareuveni

Austrian experimental trumpeter Franz Hautzinger, now based in Morvan, France, has developed in the last two decades an idiosyncratic sound that borrows its aesthetics from electronic, digital music to his quarter-tone trumpet. He employs unorthodox embouchure techniques and unique ways of modulating the streams of air, plus amplifying the slightest puff by intense miking inside the horn. The following releases offer different aspects of Hautzinger’s art.

Birgit Ulher / Franz Hautzinger - Kleine Trompetenmusik (Relative Pitch, 2020) ****

W.A. Mozart’s famous Eine kleine Nachtmusik is by no means inspiration for the duo trumpets of experimental German, Hamburg-based Birgit Ulher, and her sonic soulmate Hautzinger, now based in Morvan, France. But Kleine Trompetenmusik, recorded at Ulher’s flat in May 2018, suggests many subtle surprises and sonic nuances in the five dialogs of these idiosyncratic improvisers.

The trumpets are no more brass instruments but an assemblage of metallic tubes and valves that stream, channel, and manipulate breaths and air. Ulher adds radio, speakers, and objects to her arsenal. Extended breathing techniques and careful timbral research are integral elements of the deal, but the focus here is not about the technical aspect or sonic inventions, but on the always inventive, lively, and intimate conversational interplay and about the imaginative exploration of a rich spectrum of uncommon and abstract sounds.

Each of the five pieces has a distinct atmosphere. “Firn” focuses on sculpting very talkative, ethereal gestures, and the occasional attempts to discipline these imaginative gestures into loose kind of bubbling, rhythmic patterns. “Griesel” offers a fragmented, lyrical melody within a quiet drone, punctuated with sudden silences and abstract noises. “Filz” alternates between a very quiet and unworldly storm and a nervous electroacoustic sound. “Eibisch” is an intimate talk, quite playful and naturally eccentric, where Ulher and Hauztinger focus on raw, guttural sounds and restless breaths. The last “Zuuf” plays with rhythmic sounds and breaths that sound more like abstract electronic sounds, articulated beautifully with a great sense of timing. Inspiring set of duets.

Regenorchester XII - Relics (Trost, 2020) ****

Hautzinger founded the Regenorchester (Rain Orchestra in English) project in London in 1995 as an experimental. Cross-genre ensemble. This project morphed throughout the years into a lab of free-improvised music and hosted in its evolving incarnations close friends from the Viennese as guitarist Burkhard Stangl and Martin Siewert (who mixed and mastered this recording), Australian guitarist and sound artist Oren Ambarchi, American guitarist Ava Mendoza, and British drummer Steve Noble. The twelfth incarnation of this project features an all-star ensemble - Hautzinger on quarter-tone trumpet, fellow Austrian guitarist and sound artist Christian Fennesz, Dutch player of acoustic bass guitar Luc Ex (aka Luc Klassen, formerly of The Ex) and Australian drummer Tony Buck (of The Necks fame) and Japanese guitarist and turntables player Otomo Yoshihide, all took parts in previous incarnations of the project. Relics was recorded live at the Klangspuren Festival, Schwaz, Austria in September 2019, and reflects faithfully the inclusive vision of this ensemble.

Relics incorporates organically elements of art-rock, noise, and drone into its intense and wild free-improvisations. Hautzinger’s fast, staccato-like phrasings are at the center of the opening, title-piece and soar above the distorted storm of Fennesz and Yoshihide guitar and the percolating pulse of Ex and Buck. Buck builds a massive pulse on the following, the raging and chaotic“Arbre”, with only Hautzinger attempting to inject a coherent narrative into this tensed piece. Hautzinger’s whispering quiet breaths set the tone to the enigmatic, nuanced drone of “Icon”. The following “Fanfare” intensifies slowly the subtle, sound-oriented interplay of “Icon” and creates a dense palette of thorny, nervous sounds, anticipating an apocalyptic climax, but Hautzinger opts for a peaceful conclusion. “Dogman” delivers the promised, cathartic climax with a magnificent, cosmic meltdown of Haitzinger extended breathing techniques, Fennesz and Yoshihide’s tortured guitar lines, and Ex and Buck wild pulse. This performance ends with the haunting, cinematic drone of “Taimn”, with some lyrical overtones of Hautzinger’s trumpet and Buck’s percussive work, soon to be veiled a dense wall of noisy sounds of the Regenorchester XII.

Duthoit / Hamann / Hautzinger,/ Johnson / Pultz Melbye / Walters - Evolve (SoundOut, 2020) ****

Evolve suggests another, but a completely different approach for free-improvisation. The ad-hoc quintet of Hauztinger, his partner, French vocal artist-clarinet player Isabelle Duthoit, Danish, Berlin-based double bass player Adam Pultz Melbye, and Australian, Berlin-based cellist Judith Hamann, and fellow Australian guitarist Ren Walters and sax player Richard Johnson, was recorded during the SoundOut festival in Canberra, Australia in February 2018. Evolve documents the first-ever performance of this sextet, and the many ways its interplay evolves, shifts, and grows into intersubjective beauty.

This four-part performance develops organically, in a free-associative manner while offering its own, fragile, transient logic. Hautzinger and Duthoit begin this performance with an intimate duet of bubbling breaths and urgent, suggestive whispers and wordless utterances, setting the tone for the haunting, minimalist first part of this set. Walters, Hamman, and Johnson intensify methodically this kind of reserved, minimalist commotion on the second part and the whole sextet acts as a tight and wild yet democratic sonic entity on the third part, stressing the mysterious incantations of Duthoit. The performance reaches its climax on the last, fourth part, an inventive and poetic, conversational interplay, highlighting the immediate affinity, the strong and totally individual voices, the patient, chamber interplay, and the wide-open sonic horizons.