Each album by Canadian trumpeter Lina Allemano is something to look out for. Her various ensembles and projects all have their own special approach to music and as a consequence also their very specific sound. Drummer Nick Fraser is part of many of those projects, including the Lina Allemano Four and Titanium Riot.
This album is relatively unique by any measure, in the sense that the trumpeter and the drummer created six duo compositions, four of which they then offered to other artists to remix them, using the ingredients to tell their own story, altering the recording and adding their own additional sounds. The concept is a fun one, or at a much deeper level even a philosophical one, and I must say it's a kind of generous act on behalf of Allemano and Fraser not to think their approach is the ultimate version of their composed improvisations.
The release has been growing on the Bandcamp site during the month of October, adding two new takes every week.
The uneven tracks offer the pure interaction between Allemano and Fraser, and they are a true delight: crisp, compact, focused, unexpected and playful, although the eery "Deadly Night Shade" is dark and plaintive.
The remixes are also unexpected, maybe with the one observation that it appears to be difficult for the remix artists not to create patterns in their music.
"Orange", a playful rhythmic piece, becomes "Brass Slippers" in the hands of Mira Martin-Gray, who started her remix based on the clicks of Allemano's trumpet keys. The remix is quite recognisable, and some synth sounds are added to keep the piece together.
"Other Ways Number One", a sparse intense composition, becomes "Inorganic" in the hands of Bryan Qu, and I must say it has become almost unrecognisable, especially after a first listen of the album. Fraser's beat appears to be maintained, but somehow the trumpet got lost in translation.
Karen Ng transforms "Lemon" into "Linick 2.0", processing the sounds, adding some sax and synth elements. Again, it's not clear where Allemano has disappeared into, and Fraser's beat has reduced to simple beats. She completely changes the piece, including its mood, and I think the result is strong, even if something else entirely.
The dark "Deadly Night Shade" is also turned into a completely different piece - "A Bashful Droid" - in the hands of Nick Dunston, who adds his own banjo playing and a 'hacked tape cassette player'. It is still somewhat eery, but far removed from the original with the exception of the repetitive moaning phrase that serves as backdrop.
The album ends with "Lime" and "Other Ways Number Two", two pieces by the duo of Allemano and Fraser. Again, they get my preference over the remix, even if the trumpet sound is strongly altered in the last track.
In sum, I think the concept of commissioning other musicians to change and transform one's own material is exceptional, and even if I prefer the original duets between trumpet and drums - and they are magnificent - the idea of opening the listeners' ears and possibly minds by forcing them to listen differently, to listen to other sounds than what is expected, to be pushed (pulled?) out their comfort zone is worth something. None of the remix tracks contain music that I would personally cherish or even relate to. But I still listened to them, attentively, and many times.
That's innovation for you.
The full album will only be available digitally once all tracks have received their weekly publication, expected in the first week of November.
Listen and download from Bandcamp.