EKG & Giuseppe Ielasi

Group
Formed Records 105

Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack
Intents & Purposes
482 Music 482-1050

Working as a freelance double reed player is rather a precarious situation, especially if like San Francisco-based Kyle Bruckmann your allegiance is to both improvised and notated music; and your approach defiantly left field..

But as these two fine recent sessions demonstrate, Bruckmann, who variously performs on oboe, English horn, suona and analog electronics, has managed the feat by spreading himself as thin as possible without losing musical adeptness. The oboist, who performs with regional symphony and opera companies in California, is also firmly committed to improv, in associations with the likes of drummer Gino Robair and saxophonist Scott Rosenberg in the Bay area, and with others during the years he spent in Chicago.

The Windy City is well represented here on these CDs. For, except for Italian guitarist, pianist and electronic manipulator Giuseppe Ielasi on Group, all other musicians are Chicagoans. The third member of Group is Ernst Karel who plays trumpet and analog electronics. Someone who now works at Harvard University, the brass man also performs with German guitarist Annette Krebs and Italian saxophonist Alessandro Bosetti. Bruckmann and Karel recorded two previous EKG CDs as a duo. In Wrack, Tim Daisy in the percussionist in the Vandermark5; bass clarinetist Jason Stein is in another quartet led by reedist Ken Vandermark; bassist Anton Hatwich is part of the Fast Citizens’ band; and violist Jen Clare Paulson is completing her doctoral studies in nearby Madison, Wisc.

Intents & Purposes utilizes extended sonic contours and unexpected instrumental combinations in an unabashedly acoustic setting. The polyphonic interface among the three players is such on Group however, that the quivering drones and flickering whooshes often can’t be attributed to either electronic or acoustic output, let alone individual instruments.

Reed tongue slaps, bubbling brass grace notes and intermittent piano chording are apparent enough, but, can what sounds like a drum stick being drawn across a ride cymbal actually be metal abraded against the microphone? All three players expand their timbres with electronics, so that at times undifferentiated clicking, spluttering sound envelopes and buzzing percussive pulses predominate.

At times, motor-driven ratcheting meets up with heavy breaths forced through the horns’ body tube and lead pipe respectively, only to have those same breaths expand the mouthpiece and neck as they’re forced backwards and upwards. Contrapuntal unison horn riffs move upfront from distant background overtones, slicing through the blurry oscillations to challenge triggered peeps and delayed flanges that feed undifferentiated drones and quivers.

When the five interlocking tracks eventually reach a finale of horn-driven, broken chord grace notes, the logic of the prior musical architecture becomes clearer. Reed and brass peeping and wheezing plus key percussion descending through pianissimo movements, outline these tones to more clearly so that they stand out among the constant, sequenced electronic loops.

If Group’s leitmotif is minimalist sound manipulation, then its equivalent on the other CD’s seven selections is unabashed, often fortissimo chamber improv. During its course, although Wrack evokes the modernist contours of Anthony Braxton’s pieces as well as so-called classical composers, the POMO themes reflect more populist impulses. Evoked are serpentine Arabic ripples, Baroque rondos and contrapuntal European dance rhythms – the kind usually advanced by freewheeling bands from Italy and the Netherlands.

Take “Despite All Evidence to the Contrary” for instance. Initially floated on hocketing, exaggerated split tones from the reed players, sweeping shuffle bowing from Hatwich and tap-dance reverberations from Daisy, it soon become an oboe showcase. To the accompaniment of roiling drum beats, Bruckmann’s discordant, squeaking timbres evolve to widely spaced distortions that most closely resemble bagpipe eruptions. Meantime Stein’s pumping bass clarinet vamps complement and mirror Bruckmann’s riffs, with the theme eventually recapped by viola and bass strings that seem to be unraveling as they sound.

However “Further ado”, the CD’s final and shortest track, is practically a cabaletta, which leaps and dances on sul ponticello downward slides from the viola and snake charmer-like double tonguing from the oboist. Before the piece concludes with a staccato slap solo from the bassist, plus irregular split tones from the bass clarinetist, the drummer lets loose with a dynamic rhythmic exercise that produces concussive pulsations from his drum sides, rim and sticks, rather then the skins.

Pitter-pattering wooden and metal discordant percussion tones get a work out on “Slippery Disciplines”, as the horns play in broken octave around them. Echoing Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music, the composition progresses as extended pauses precede each theme variation. Mixing jungle-sound whinnies from the higher-pitched horn and rasping tongue splatters from the bass clarinet and double bass, the melody swells, then pauses to climax with altissimo side-slipping timbres from bass clarinet and oboe, sul tasto unison string movements and tick-tock ruffs and flam from the percussionist.

Languendo when needed and agitato in other spots, Bruckmann’s compositions reflect the breath of his interests as well as the rapport among the members of Wrack. Both notable CDs reflect the double-reedist’s fully developed exploration of varied musical channels.

— Ken Waxman

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Track Listing: Group: 1. Detach 2. [No name #1] 3. (Providence-Middletown) 4. [No name #2] 5. Umweg

Personnel: Group: Ernst Karel (trumpet and analog electronics); Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, English horn and analog electronics) and Giuseppe Ielasi (electronics, guitar, piano, etc.)

Track Listing: Intents & Purposes: 1. The System Cannot Withstand Close Scrutiny 2. Slippery Disciplines 3. Intents & Purposes 4. Hot Bother 5. Despite All Evidence to the Contrary 6. Further Ado

Personnel: Intents & Purposes: Jason Stein (bass clarinet); Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, English horn and suona); Jen Clare Paulson (viola); Anton Hatwich (bass) and Tim Daisy (percussion)