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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Superimpose - With (Inexhaustible Editions, 2021) ****½

By Keith Prosk

Percussionist Christian Marien and trombonist Matthias Müller freely play three separate sets with John Butcher on soprano and tenor saxophone, vocalist Sofia Jernberg, and trumpeter Nate Wooley on the two-hour 3xCD With.

While their recordings since formation - including the recently digitally-reissued eponymous debut - have featured just the duo, the live performance practice of Superimpose frequently features collaborators. With finally reflects that aspect of their work, with three 2018 recordings accompanied by musicians with their own distinctive sound practices. While the duo had previously played with Jernberg and Wooley, With documents a first meeting with Butcher.

The music is perhaps more extended technique than not, communication occurring most often through pulse, dynamics, and timbre. The breath-based practices of the new collaborators more overtly compare to the trombone but what’s striking is the ease with which Marien coaxes colors from the kit to match them, parallel play on the skin summoning charybdian whirrs to compliment blustering air notes, type-writer stick clicks during high-bpm passages, resonant bowed cymbals trembling together with metallic vibrato, bombastic kick drum carpet bombings for freewheeling swing, and a menagerie of other sounds for any situation. Müller shifts comfortably from brass swells to step-pattern tonal movements to farty oompah to air notes including his characteristic flame-wicking sustain and valve-release breaths. The pair together maintains their individual and duo identities while adeptly adapting their catalogs of texture to their collaborators, combining well with: Butcher’s microtonal chirpings, airy explorations of the bore, high-frequency squeals, and dexterous interweaving lines; Jernberg’s multiphonics singing and chirping at once, bold swaths of color in register shifts via yodelesque action, yells like brass swells, tongue clicks like sticks; and Wooley’s muted morse, breath play, airy unsoundings illuminating the shape of the trumpet, balloons rubbing together, and expressive embouchures. Each also adapting their particular practices to this duo. It navigates the tension of adaptability and resiliency, bending but not breaking, each performer simultaneously within, aware of, and addressing solo, duo, and trio identities.

With is available on 3xCD and digitally.