Birgit Ulher

Radio Silence No More
Olaf Bright OBCD 22

Treating as full partners the extended drones and blurry hisses that emanate from a stand-along radio and its speaker, Hamburg-based trumpeter Birgit Ulher uses mutes plus her improvisational prowess to shape this program. On nine mid-length tracks here – all with the suffix “-welle” or “-wave” – buzzing mouthpiece growls rubbed metal abrasions and prolonged, strident whines enliven, wrap up or complement the unpremeditated wave forms and sideband echoes heard from the untouched appliance.

Propelling air through her horn’s iron tube without valve movement, humming nonsense syllables along with discordant tones or gutturally popping split tones, Ulher amplifies her oral attack with lip bubbling, shrill whistles and chromatic tongue slaps, often reaching sibilate rapprochement with the barely audible static interference. Although carefully inserted bell-mutes impede full-force blowing, she prominently exposes understated droning burrs, altissimo whistling cries or pedal-point forced guttural tones on tracks such as “Langwelle”. Or she uses throat gargles and reflux as a unique performance strategy as on “Dezimeterwelle”.

Cunningly divorcing her horn sounds from its characteristic showy brassiness, Ulher patches and breath-propels startling – and highly appropriate – trumpet textures into the mix, matching the other wave forms. By refusing to acknowledge a brass instrument’s rote sound, plus not acquiescing to serendipitously created sonic oscillations, she has produced an original and memorable CD.

— Ken Waxman

— For MusicWorks Issue #106