February 26, 2007
The Tone Gardens
Creative Sources CS 067 CD
Musica Genera MG 008
When he was first profiled as an innovative pop artist, Andy Warhol complained to a magazine reporter about the protracted time it took him to reproduce his art. He said that he wished he was a machine. Like Warhol, the three sets of improvisers featured here are creating un-traditional art. But unlike him, although electrical mechanism plays a large part in their sonic interactions, the musicians inventiveness negates any lingering machine comparisons.
As a further point of congruence each CD involves at least one brass explorer generating unique timbres. Despite this potential similarity, however, its more instructive to enumerate the different strategies used.
Oddly titled, Moov Spot is a barely-36-minute trans-European interlude involving Berlin-based trumpet explorer Axel Dörner, Jérôme Noetinger from France who uses a Revox tape recorder as a sound source, and the Netherlands Cor Fuhler, whose instruments of choice are the analogue synthesizer and linguaphones. Dörner contemporaries, the German Trio Vopá features Karlsruhe-based Roland Spieth on trumpet, Cornelius Veit from Pforzheim on electric guitar and Berlin native Axel Haller on electric bass, paper [sic] and cassette recorded. Finally, The Tone Gardens cultivation involves Paris-born, Portugal-based Sei Miguel on pocket trumpet, Angolan César Burago on oddball percussion as well as the contributions of Lisbon-born Fala Mariam on alto trombone and Portuguese sound artist Rafael Toral manipulating different electronic items.
The most experimental of the three CDs, Moov Spot is split between two long tracks. On both, theres only minor differentiation between the crackling and fluttering textures produced by both the acoustic and the electronic instruments. Dörner, who developed his corrosive style as an adjunct to Free Jazz gigs with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and others, vibrates singular timbres, forced through the length of his horns lead pipe and gives them shape at the mouthpiece with burbling lip action. Occasionally smacking the mic as well, so close to the sound source is his ejaculated tone, that only chromatic brays and buzzes confirm the horns brass background.
Additional computer-produced, texture-transformation on his part joins the mechanical reverb, quivering ring modulator pitches and door-stopper-like resonation from the others to create distinctive aural shapes. Noetingers contributions, for example, are in the form of individual accelerated tape quivers, while flanged chirrups, video game-like sound ripples, distanced buzzes and bell-like pealing arise from Fuhlers synthesizer.
Climax is reached in the second tracks final variation as flapping tape ribbon sounds, overlain on synthesizer groans give way to what appears to be the aural replication of a porcelain sink progressively emptying draining the sound from the track as if it was water siphoning out of the fixture.
Tone partition is more widely spaced on Fauxpas. Only a quarter-hour lengthier than the first CD, but divided into 15 tracks 14 that range from 20 seconds to barely five minutes and an almost-19 minute finale, rarely is one instruments tone confused for anothers.
Buttressing the sound with invention and vigor, the 14 tracks preceding the ultimate one include overtly technical exercises that show off the instruments extremities to polyrhythmic trio interactions. Fern is an example of the later where the flanges and droning pulsations from one of the two electric instruments collide with ring modulator-like gongs plus spitty whispers and tongue-stopping resonation from Spieth.
Other tracks showcase mouthpiece kisses and smacks from the trumpet, double-stopped finger-picking and scraped abrasions from the guitar, plus buzzes and frenetic pauses from the electric bass. Furthermore, Spieth distinctively tongues his grace notes in so that at certain junctures they replicate a saxophones body-tube expansion.
Fragmented with frequent extended pauses, Dans, the CDs extended finale, moves cyclically. Machine-like motorized turns, converging ground bass pulses from Haller, and Harmon-muted note clusters from the trumpeter are most prominent. Ultimately though, Veits slack-key guitar frailing and the bassists string hand thumps surmount hissing electro effects and join with the brass flatulence to achieve a staccato and agitato drone in triple counterpoint. This viscousness is made more obvious by a concluding trumpet honk.
There are no brass honks on The Tone Gardens, but between Miguel and Mariam a panopoly of muted brass techniques are heard. As these minimalist textures appear and disappear, the CDs three tracks are shaped by the exceptional percussion ingenuity of Burago who uses unorthodox implements such as fiber, seeds and metals plus feedback and filters from Torals instruments. Lisbon-born Toral, whose associations have included membership in the MIMEO orchestra and interactions with American composers such as Phill Niblock, Rhys Chatham and John Zorn has been working with electronics and multimedia installations for so long more than 20 years that his deft, sophisticated contributions never overpower the wispy pulses of the acoustic instruments.
Strategy throughout is for one of the brass players sputtering grace notes to adumbrate a legato melody, while as the other usually Miguel decorates the line with rococo ornamentation. As the tunes full warbling shape hovers into aural view, vibraharp-like sine waves and vibrating surfaces plus percussion sounds that resemble shaken maracas, struck claves and hollow log resonation gives the alto trombone and pocket trumpet space for a subtle call-and-response pattern.
Sustaining on broken chords, the quadruple counterpoint in each Garden encompasses metallic, percussive ricocheting, sequenced, crossed-wire signals from Torals equipment, plus peeps and scrapes from the brass.
When the final track arrives, triggered white-noise modulations and concussive shaken-and-stirred percussion tones retreat. Then Miguel and Mariams interface turns aggressive. Jittery note clusters split into contrapuntal hocketing tones. The trombonist tongue slaps and the trumpeter produces staccato braying. Eventually the taut tongue abrasions allow the two to lob slithery cadences back-and-forth. Eventually, the brasss lower-pitched snorts and higher-pitched warbles attain added context, framed among tin-can-like bounces and sequenced whooshes and pulsations from Torals white-noise system.
More of a piece than the other CDs, overall this quartet session is also the most satisfying. But the other discs arent too far behind when it comes to exemplifying this proactive mixture of brass, percussion and electronics. And not one sounds as if it is produced by a machine.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Moov: 1. [24:04] 2. [10:58]
Personnel: Moov: Axel Dörner (trumpet and computer); Cor Fuhler (analogue synthesizer and linguaphones) and Jérôme Noetinger (tape recorder Revox B77)
Track Listing: Fauxpas: 1. suc 2. malaise 3. ruade 4. tromperie 5. melenc 6. 21st Century Groove 7. humer 8. Badischer Marsch 9. rspah 10. bas 11. cor 12. fern 13. electrified guitar 14. quine 15. Dans
Personnel: Fauxpas: Roland Spieth (trumpet); Cornelius Veit (electric guitar and effects) and Axel Haller (electric bass, paper and cassette recorder)
Track Listing: Tone: 1. First Garden 2. Second Garden 3. Third Garden
Personnel: Tone: Sei Miguel (pocket trumpet); Fala Mariam (alto trombone); César Burago (small percussion, seeds, fiber, tamorim and metals and dead radios) and Rafael Toral (computer sinewavess, portable amplified feedback and modulated white noise system)