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Friday, September 23, 2022

Ü - Ü (s/r, 2022)

By Guido Montegrandi

Ü quartet was born in 2021 and this is their first work. The name comes from the 16th hexagram of the I Ching whose translation in Italian sounds like Ü il Fervore – hence also the title of the closing track

In stating their aesthetic Alessandro Luppi (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax), Giovanni Falascone (piano, kalimba, live electronics), Filippo Abrate (percussion), Thomas Canna (percussion) tell us that "the group is oriented toward a rhythm and timbre research which has its foundation in jazz, electroacoustic, ethnic, contemporary and experimental music. The aim of this research is to investigate a ritual and evocative dimension where a performance can be built, a space for a search in balance between composition and improvisation."

In all of the tracks the listener can find references to jazz, to electroacoustic music, to ethnic music but all these references are incorporated into a personal project. It’s a quartet with no leading role, all of the four musicians bring their contribution to a sound that flows between freedom and structure. The interplay reminds me remarkably of the European free music of the 70 with a very well balanced poise among all of the instruments. Musical ideas are introduced as fragments of sound, as traces leading to places that dissolve into silence.

A deep sense of space characterizes the sound - Giovanni Falascone, responsible of the mixing process, told me that in order to avoid the two drums to fuse into a single sound, one of them has been placed on the left in the mix and the other on the right with piano slightly on the right and clarinet slightly on the left. This has created a precise static definition for the acoustic sound in the mix while the processed sounds and the electronics exploit the whole space expanding in a free and randomic way. A foreign sound that surfaces and take possession of the acoustic space.

Below, are my impressions of the pieces, just to give a personal hint of their attitude, given the fact that Ü appears like a continuous work and the various pieces interact and respond to each other creating some kind of path.

The opening track Dense 4 starts with sparse atmospheric percussion, slowly joined by reeds and piano, to build a nice free improvisation where the rhythm flows from the drums to the piano.

In Specchi, the sounds are isolated electronics and cymbals and drums with a reed singing a broken melody doubled in the end by an expressive drumming.

The clarinet introduces the theme of Ghana Blues again doubled by the percussions as if the statements of “Specchi” have to be continued, then it all fades into a stream of electronic sounds creating a change into the landscape and leaving in the end a very distant reed playing.

Suite for Milan has an almost canonical free jazz intro fading into silence which prepares for the central piece of the suite in tempo lento. Here the piano creates the environment for the other players to build their structures. Again, the collective creation of sound emerges. The sound get thinner and rarer until the reed leads to a fast free ending which seems to close the circle.

In Rumble, bass clarinet and percussions play seemingly in the distance, structured metallic noises fill the foreground until the percussion makes its statement, just a moment before silence.

Searching for Consciousness is marked by percussion, a lamenting reed, electronic noises and sounds that gradually take the lead followed and then surrounded by a constant drumming and long reed sounds, then silence (almost). From this cracked land, a rhythmic drumming, piano and reed emerge as if a path has been found but then again the melody slowly dissolves into silence.

Stripes is characterized by a ground of percussions in conversation with a meandering reed.

Il Fervore closes the album with the drums interacting with the piano and then with the reed weaving intricate patterns. When the sax is left alone it is like a cusp reabsorbed by the final notes of piano and drums again.

In conclusion, I consider Ü an intriguing piece of work that discloses sound and ideas that deserve further developments, certainly a good contribution to the search for a contemporary musical expression.