December 4, 2010
Nate Wooley & Paul Lytton
Creak Above 33
Herbal International Concrete Disc 1001
Sound sources expressing the properties of wood, strings, brass and skin inform the interactions which characterize these notable CDs. Yet as definitions of acceptable resonance and intonation continue to evolve, improvisations such as these start with more of a clean slate then others.
Case in point Lalienation, which showcases five digital sound processed improvisations created by Sabine Ercklentz, whose minimalist trumpeting wavers between extended techniques and almost standard tones, and Andrea Neumann, whose specially designed, keyboard-less piano frame is played with pick-ups and preparations. Both Berlin-based the two have spent almost a decade performing as a duo or with other microtonal experimentalists such as trumpeter Axel Dörner and percussionist Burkhard Beins.
Created after some mutually satisfying duo tours, Creak Above 33 unites young American trumpeter Nate Wooley, whose prior sessions encompass everything from absolute noise-microtonalism with guitarist Chris Forsyth to Jazz-improv with trombonist Steve Swell and cellist Daniel Levin. His partner, British percussionist Paul Lytton, has been involved with improvised sounds for more than 40 years, most notably in the bands of bassist Barry Guy and saxophonist Evan Parker. While no one is going to confuse this disc – where the drummer also manipulates electronics and the trumpeter an amplifier – with a Miles Davis-Philly Joe Jones record, a basic link to the ongoing Jazz-improv tradition still exists.
Wooley’s staccato growls and plunger burps have obvious antecedents, and by this time Lytton’s historic meticulous exposure of rebounds, scrapes, chain-rattling and bell pealing have entered into the everyday vocabulary of many progressive drummers. However the processed intensity which electronics bring to the percussionist’s squeals, ruffs and rustles, as well as the trumpeter’s mixing of fortissimo and lyrical curved notes plus the blowing of unaccented air from the bell, confirm this duo’s individualistic strategies.
From the very beginning the chromatic interface reveals a few incomparable concepts as when Lytton uses ratcheting rubs and ricocheting power from the drum rims to meet Wooley’s downward slurs and barely there breaths. With ring-modulator-like peals appearing in and out of focus as a backdrop, Lytton abrasively scratches a drum stick against an unlathed cymbal as Wooley drags his trumpet’s mouthpiece against an amp for greater friction. Somehow a Hawaiian slack guitar-like twang enters the mix as the trumpeter alters his buzzing timbres to grace notes. Soon shaky doits and rubato grace notes quiver sympathetically alongside the drummer’s chain shaking and ratamacues. As whispering electronic oscillations accelerate to shrill signal processing, the two bring the session to a satisfying end with bata-drum-like strokes and staccato valve-les peeps.
Pauses and electronics are more prominent on the Ercklentz-Neumann session, which itself is committed to prolonged silences, sibilant and yawning tones forced from the trumpet plus echoing, distant wave forms. From the beginning what appears to be the sound of snooker balls colliding and rude Bronx cheers are exposed alongside twanging piano strings. Dilated, watery burrs and curved air from the brass player are barely heard before being shattered into distanced wisps by an undercurrent of patched flanges, granular tone stretching and wiggling voltage drones.
By the CD’s final track the timbres are embellished with different samples of muted voices as well as parallel broken-octave improvising where a previously recorded lick is audible alongside one played live. Following the trumpeter’s valve taps and tongue rolls, a single stopped string resonates with mallet-propelled power. Surprisingly enough, Ercklentz’ disassociated buzzes and nasal cadenzas then move on from a climax mixed with vocal snatches to suddenly blossom into a bouncy, capriccio-liked melody with input from the sampled and the sentient players. Layered into the result are percussive wood pats and thumps.
While that fleeting interface may suggest that tradition-oriented tendencies exist in the Ercklentz-Neumann duet as well as the one from Wooley and Lytton, innovative experimentation characterizes both sessions. Self-described traditionalists should likely steer clear, but those who yearn for innovative ideas will probably be fascinated by either or both CDs.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Creak: 1. The Mbala Effect 2. The Gentle Sturgeon 3. Filtering the Fogweed 4. The Lonely Fisherman
Personnel: Creak: Nate Wooley (trumpet and amplifier) and Paul Lytton (percussion and live electronics)
Track Listing: Lalienation: 1. Bialetti 2. Lalienation 3. Ortlaut 4. Passer Par Tout 5. Twin Quartet 6. Lalienation [Mpeg4]
Personnel: Lalienation: Sabine Ercklentz (trumpet and electronics) and Andrea Neumann (piano frame and electronics)