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Friday, June 16, 2023

Julius Amber – Close Up (Veto records, 2023)

By  Fotis Nikolakopoulos

The duo of Julius Amber is a paraphrase of Elio Amberg on the tenor saxophone and Julian Sartorius on the drums. Close Up is the amalgamation of their vision for music, one that certainly goes beyond jazz, even jazz based musics. I would dare make a comparison that along XT, the duo of Seymour Wright and Paul Abbott, Amberg and Sartorius breathe totally fresh air in improvisational music relieving the classic sax-drums duo from the burden of tradition.

The music in all ten tracks of Close Up finds both musicians willingly reconceptualizing the idea and notion of the duo. It is almost impossible to distinguish their unique voices (and noises…) and that is exactly what they are trying to achieve. The sounds: gargles, percussion cracks, small phrases on the sax, cymbals crashing in miniscule scale and so much more, are made on the spot with precision. Their small scale –sometimes less than three minutes long- improvisations go deep into a struggle of getting rid the individual voice, leaving zero space for the mythologized, in jazz, solo player. Starting with the opening track which clocks on fourteen minutes and definitely is a state of intent, up to the short, under two minutes, passages, the aforementioned remark is the core of Close Up.

Their use of electronics, not to mention the electronic rhythm sequencer they follow as they go along, makes this album (yes! It’s on vinyl) more anti-jazz than anything else that comes out nowadays under the moniker free improvisation. But this is not an “electronic” album by no means and the rhythm sequences they follow are not a fixed tenure on what you are about to listen to on both sides of the record.

Their sound, so personal indeed, is flexible, energetic and playful. They do not feel any burden, from any history or tradition, on their shoulders. Again I would dare to comment that their gaze towards the material feels a bit radical. Strong word, I know, but Close Up is music that shouldn’t be missed. Be it from the best of 2023 lists or, more importantly, from those who want to listen to something new and like to get out of their comfort zone.

After last year’s trio of Christoph Erb, Magda Mayas and Gerry Hemingway that made it in this site’s top ten list for 2022, Veto Records pas produced another great one. In fewer words, listen and buy it here: