Click here to [close]

Thursday, April 7, 2022

URUK - Âme (Iive at Artacts) (Trost, 2022) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

Uruk is the free-improvising quartet comprised of two duos - partners in life and music, French vocalist-clarinetist Isabelle Duthoit and Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger (who plays here the quarter-tone trumpet) and long-time comrades, master percussionists Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake, who began collaborating as a duo already in 1990 and since then perform the winter solstice concert in Chicago. The quartet was recorded live at Artacts Festival in St. Johan, Austria, in March 2020 during a short European tour.

Uruk was one of the most important cities in ancient Mesopotamia, and the debut album of Uruk offers four timeless and imaginative rituals that navigate freely between ancient traditions and contemporary, free music. This short set begins with the title piece and sounds like an irreverent shamanic ritual. Duthoit vocalizes enigmatic and urgent spells and incantations in a wordless lingo as if she was possessed by ancient magic. Her vocalizations were immediately abstracted into intoxicating melodies by Hautzinger while Drake and Zerang introduce hypnotic rhythmic patterns on the congas and frame drums. The following “Enkidu”, titled after a legendary figure in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, a wartime comrade and friend of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, suggests another kind of mysterious ritual, beginning as free-form improvisation but gently the brief breaths of Hautzinger and the sensual moans, sighs and cries of Duthoit match the sparse percussive patterns of Drake and Zerang, then the interplay transforms into a poetic and seductive groove, with Drake adding his own wordless chants.

“Gilgamesh” begins as a twisted meditation comprised of subtle noises produced by the extended breathing techniques of Hutzinger, the pixie-like vocal juggling of Duthoit, and subtle percussive touches of Drake and Zerang. Later it morphs into an exotic and hypnotic, snake-charming melody, led by Hautzinger and Duthoit with her urgent and wild pixie-like songs. The final “Inanna Ishtar”, titled after the Akkadian goddess of war and sexual love, completes this sensual ritual with a touching, traditional African song sung by Drake, and beautifully ornamented by Hautzinger, Duthoit on the clarinet, and Zerang. This is one of the performances that you wish to experience in person, to feel the magical healing vibrations of these sonic rituals close as possible to the four inspiring musicians.