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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Ulrike Brand & Olaf Rupp - Myotis Myotis (Creative Sources, 2022)

By Martin Schray

In my review of their last album Shadowscores from 2016 I wrote that Ulrike Brand and Olaf Rupp hardly use their instruments in a stereotypical way. Brand doesn’t play dignified classical music on her cello and Rupp’s electric guitar is as far away from rock machismo as possible. For nine years now the two musicians have had their duo and in this time of making music together they have developed “a rich sound world oscillating between homogeneity and contrast, with micro- and macro-structures that are partly transparent and partly concealed“ (as their band camp site says). In fact, their musical philosophy is of a certain airy complexity (which is not a contradiction here). Their ingredients have remained the same over the years: overtone sounds, arpeggios, clusters, numerous alienation effects like feedbacks, all kinds of noises and differentiated volume modulation (here especially on the electric guitar). And yet this album is quite different to the one before.

On the first three pieces there’s still the offensive confrontation of the two instruments, the staccato attacks of the guitar and the sharp string cuts of the cello, the back and forth, the abrupt changes of direction in dynamics and rhythm. Especially in “Seggenried“ this becomes clear. But then the music takes a turn towards ambient sounds. Tracks like “Teichbinse“ and “Mondraute“, the longest ones on the album, consist of floating single notes and harmonics and almost endless trills on the cello, which are replaced by widely curved melodic arches and feedbacks. The result are complex and nearly frightening textures which change to fragile and sublime ones. However, it’s astonishing that the pieces always keep an angular and raw touch. The second part of Myotis Myotis could work as a soundtrack for a documentary on Germany’s native grasslands (Teichbinsen, Mondrauten and Hainsimsen are the names of plant genera). Every note seems to be very finely dabbed, the musicians take a lot of time. This time, symbolized by longer pauses, takes away unnecessary density from the music, Brand and Rupp rather decompose it. What is more, they invite us to close our eyes and explore our own mind as well as the nature around us. And if we get into it, the range of sensations, observations, moods and ideas is surprisingly wide. In the end, the journey really does seem to be the reward on Myotis Myotis. The music oscillates between melancholic and feather-light states of consciousness, in fact this is a strength of Brand’s and Rupp’s improvisations.

All in all, we might say that the duo explores the field of tension between music, sound and noise, turning in an effort that’s more minimal and therefore more effective than 2016’s Shadowscores. Maybe the fact that the music was recorded within one day has made it more precise, simpler and somehow even more subtle. The communication between the two is simply excellent in a somnambulistic way, as if their ideas creep into each other and cross-pollinate. The album is on heavy rotation on my CD player, I wonder how I could have overlooked it so far.

Myotis Myotis is available as a CD and as a download.