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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Cranes: Matthias Müller, Eve Risser, Christian Marien - Formation < Deviation (Relative Pitch, 2021) ****

By Keith Prosk

Trombonist Matthias Müller, pianist Eve Risser, and drummer Christian Marien freely play two percussive, textural, sidelong tracks on Formation < Deviation.

Müller and Marien are familiar partners, forming the duo SuperImpose, which reissued their eponymous debut earlier in 2021 and are expecting an ambitious set, With, featuring collaborations with John Butcher, Sofia Jernberg, and Nate Wooley, out later in 2021 via Inexhaustible Editions. This is their first recording with Risser, who perhaps most recently appeared on Pedro Melo Alves’ In Igma in 2020.

Each musician leverages their own characteristic command of preparations, extended techniques, and otherwise textural soundings for an expansive palette. Sometimes timbres blur to confuse the source, a fluttering could be breath or brushes, a woody click tapped piano body or drumsticks, a metallic shriek bowed cymbals or some warped inside-piano glissando. Most other times, they remain timbrally close, like the metallic trio of gonging cymbals, tinny ringing trombone bell, and the truncated clang of muted hammered keys towards the middle of “Illusion of Innocence,” or the metronomic yet organic techno exchange between piano and drums towards the end. They stay close too, in their ranges of dynamics and density and pulse. And pulse is a salient feature here, percussive playing shaping a rhythmic soundscape not unlike the stippling on the cover. Preparations and other techniques on the piano more often emphasize discrete soundings like muted hammerings and less resonant inside-piano pluckings than the lingering harmonics of traditional playing, resembling the strike and chime of alarm and grandfather clocks when neighboring strings are allowed to ring. The trombone more often plays pointillistic staccato, but even sustained soundings stress pulse, resembling flickering flame or popping cavitation more than smooth lines. In a kind of reversal of roles, the drums might linger in the air longest, the longwave kick drum suspending with the syrupy fluidity of bass guitar, tapped cymbals building a singing resonance. This melange of texture and pulse make a particularly tactile, sensual listening experience.

Formation < Deviation is available digitally and on CD.