John Butcher & Christof Kurzmann

The Big Misunderstanding Between Hertz and Megahertz
Potlatch P106

John Butcher & Eddie Prévost
Interworks
Matchless MW 66

Navigating the ever-shrinking breach between pure acoustic and electro-acoustic music on these stimulating CDs is London’s John Butcher, individually partnered with a rep from either sound world. Yet his technical command of the soprano and tenor saxophonist is so vast, and his bag of sonic tricks so adaptable, that the results are equally impressive.

Veteran AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost, another Briton, manipulates tam-tam and other percussion on Interworks. Meanwhile Christof Kurzmann, one of the Austrian godfathers of Vienna’s burgeoning electronica scene uses lloopp – an interactive software program – and pick up on the other CD.

Obviously the machine-programmed-and-triggered textures are more prominent on The Big Misunderstanding Between Hertz and Megahertz. But considering that the saxophonist’s improvisations take into account a variety of sonic possibilities, the musical interface is quite similar. Over the years, Prévost, who helped create one version of minimalist improv, has been associated with saxophonists such as Evan Parker and Lou Gare. While unique in conception, his playing isn’t unique in performance; and while unorthodox his operations carefully take into account the other player.

Kurzmann too functions in an interactive manner. Earlier collaborations with other improvisers such as saxophonist Boris Hauf and the band Polwechsel – which includes Butcher – mostly avoid the singular and robotic interface in which many musical programmers are caught.

Perhaps in self-defense however, Butcher does play something described as “feedback tenor” on “Redwood Second”. Also utilizing key percussion – a common trope throughout – the saxophonist’s carefully vibrated cries include echoing, cyclical reed pulses. In counterpoint, Kurzmann highlights circuitry-linked noises that modulate from shrill whistles to looped drones.

Sequenced effects and drones figure on many of the other tracks as well, with the computer manipulator often relying on pulsating wave forms to either provide an underlying pedal point or cluster with other triggered sequences for expansive, organ-like timbres. Dealing with the saxophonist’s growling sibilant tongue stops and coagulated nasal vibrations that accelerate into a melody on “Klafter”, Kurzmann triggers what sounds like sampled, reverberating cries that are both feathery and stolid. Elsewhere his chosen instrument’s collection of flanges, scrapes and ratchets suggest percussion. And this percussive inference links his contrapuntal creations to Prévost’s similar responses to Butcher’s hocketing improvisations.

For his part the reedist undulates tones and textures in polyphonic duets with Kurzmann. At times he blows colored air through his body tube, at others introduces circular breathing. Butcher can tongue a legato, spittle encrusted line on top of the sampler’s vacuum-cleaner-like drone as convincingly as he exposes nasal vibrations, aviary chirping, reed biting smears, lip bubbling and tongue stops. Proper responses to the hisses and polyrhythmic pulsations from Kurzmann, this panoply of techniques is particularly effective as on “Schilling” when the loops and pick up outputs make the entire track seem as if it’s quivering.

These extended techniques are also on show with Prévost. Ironically, though, when the percussionist drags a drumstick across a cymbal or undulates buzz saw-like abrasions from the tam-tam, the metallic pulses produced sound enough like the

triggered interface of a ring modulator to reference Kurzmann’s work.

On the other hand, as someone who started as a jazz drummer, Prévost never completely abandons the sounds of a regular kit. On the almost 19½-minute “Shift Work”, for instance, following a near-electronic episode, he resonates intense oscillated percussion textures. In broken-chord accompaniment, he brings up first the sound of a bass drum and then higher-pitched percussion. For his part, Butcher’s improvisation develops from key percussion and short tongue slap to melodic obbligatos then to a series of flutters that expand and conflate into a single pitch.

Completing the CD is “Work In” with its low-pitched tongue stop, slurs and osculated reed kisses from the saxophonist and Big Ben-like pealing from Prévost. Before both players relax, individual tones are isolated and emphasized.

Well-thought-out and individual responses to characteristic drones and irregular pitches are highlighted on both sessions. Either or both can be examined for instances of how Butcher’s styling can be adjusted to any situation without lose of distinctiveness.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Interworks: 1. Out Work 2.Work Shy 3.Work Flow 4.Work Up 5.Shift Work 6. Work In

Personnel: Interworks: John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones) and Eddie Prévost (tam-tam and other percussion)

Track Listing: Misunderstanding: 1. Aume 2. Bee Space 3. Klafter 4. Redwood Second 5. Schilling 6. Seer 7. Shilling 8.Therblig 9. Thimbleful

Personnel: Misunderstanding: John Butcher (tenor, feedback tenor and soprano saxophones) and Christof Kurzmann (lloopp and pick-up)