Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Bloop - Proof (Lumo, 2021) ****½

By Stef Gijssels

In addition to a strong formal training Canadian trumpeter Lina Allemano perfected her art by refining her personal skills on the instrument and expanding its boundaries by using extended techniques. She is an artist with many faces, from the professional 'session' musician on albums by other artists, over her own "Lina Allemano Four", of which a new release will be reviewed shortly, and which brings open-minded modern jazz, to the more adventurous ensembles such as this one, called "Bloop". 

Allemano plays trumpet, percussion and whistles (more about that later), and is accompanied by Mike Smith who organises live processing, meaning that he transforms Allemano's trumpet sounds through his technology. It is hard to find any information on Mike Smith at all, but the collaboration with the trumpeter seems to work out fine. Allemano's trumpet sounds are often even acoustically so beyond the expected that they could be mistaken for electronically altered even before they enter Smith's mixing panel and other tools. Luckily Allemano and Smith have been performing together since 2017 in order to perfect their art. This is their first album, and the liner notes insist that the "music was performed and recorded completely live in real-time with no overdubs or editing". Like with a normal band, this requires a lot of trust in each other's vision on music and the possible direction of the improvisation. 

Smith is an incredibly restrained and respectful partner who follows the music, allows the music to grow and flourish, and is also capable of pushing the sound in other directions. 

But the core quality remains Allemano's stellar trumpet playing and here natural sense of lyricism. Without her beautiful phrases, themes and  tone, no electronic alteration could help to make great music. Some tracks are grand and solemn, such as "Enchantment", on which Allemano starts by playing trumpet with one hand and shaking bells with the other. It is possibly one of the most beautiful things you may hear this year, a wonderfull combination between soaring trumpet sounds and the electronic magic of turning one trumpet into an orchestra. On "Decanted", the majestic previous track is completely forgotten and replaced by intimate noise, unusual trumpet grumbles, moving into interesting echoes and resonance, which is continued on "Recanted", which offers contrapuntal polyphonics, and interesting adventure into dense layers of trumpet, almost animal-like in their chatter and intensity. "The Oracle Of Chanterelle" takes a step back from the noise and out of some crystal clear trumpet sounds, an echo emerges to truly create a strong aesthetic of interaction between instrument and its electronic shadow, with echoes of echoes in one polyphonic ensemble of medieval origin. 

On "The Nestlings", Allemano demonstrates again her incredible whistling skills, as she already did on her solo album of last year. I think that the ability to manage lip pressure while playing trumpet allows for this quality of whistling. It's unusual but it creates a great intro to the piece which brings us into animal territory, again like small birds twittering for attention and food. 

"Cremini Oracle" is my favourite track, again solemn, composed, slowly developing in different layers of mutually reinforcing sounds, into an almost full-fledged trumpet orchestra, and it is a great example of Smith's skill to keep the whole electronic alteration in full harmony with the trumpet player. It ends with the sound of air being blown voicelessly through the horn, as is the beginning of the last track, "The Summoning". It is possibly the most adventurous and disruptive improvisation of the album, with multi-layered trumpet sounds shifting into crackling noise and back, and all this in a rhythmically phasing way. It is fun, and again, the imagery of animals comes up, shouting at each other, creating mayhem in the jungle of sound they inhabit. What else is there to do but to make noise and ruckus, but gradually, all these crazy sounds are called to order by Tibetan bells, and they harmonise, all in their distinct voices and timbres. 

As a listener, you can only rejoice at the willingness to move sounds beyond frontiers, while at the same time creating variety, contrast and beauty. Does everything work? Of course not, and I think that's how it should be. Without risks, there is no innovation. Without the willingness to leave the known, you will never create something new. And there are many unheard new things to listen to on this album. 


Listen and download from Bandcamp.

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