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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

KERN and Kosack - Poles and Pulse (Trouble in the East, 2020) ****

By Paul Acquaro

KERN is a group comprised of Berlin-based woodwind player Edith Steyer, trombonist Matthias Mueller, and percussionist Yorgos Dimitriadis. As a trio, they released Mittendrin (‘In the middle’) in 2017 on Creative Sources. For their 2020 release Poles and Pulse on Trouble in the East - an artist run label out of Berlin - they welcomed the Berlin-embedded American keyboardist Liz Kosack to their ranks. 

The output is an engaging album that see-saws between composition and free improvisation. ’Twin’ starts the album off quietly as disparate notes come together in odd harmony. On the follow up ‘Above the pole’ Kozack’s keyboards can be heard bubbling almost sub-sonically under an exploratory surface that builds to a kinetic end. The pulse certainly picks up on ‘Schitzlaweng’ as a syncopated rhythm from the Dimitriadis and Mueller propel Steyer’s quizzical melodic line. 

The music on ‘Poles and Pulse’ does in fact seem to revolve around the diametric poles of free improvisation and composition, but the nuanced textures, deeply connected playing, and well meted rhythmic figures show that they can live together in creative harmony.