Matthias Muche/Philip Zoubek/Achim Tang

Excerpts from Anything
Creative Sources CS192 CD

Rupp Müller Fischerlehner

Tingtingk

Gligg 017

For outsiders, the fact that two German trombonists prominent in improvised music share the same first name and a similar sounding second one is aggravating yet heartening. It’s aggravating because for non-German speakers the two are easily confused; it’s heartening because on the evidence of these CDs both do fine work as part of first-class ensembles.

To properly distinguish them, trombonist Matthias Müller, featured on Tingtingk was born in Zeven, lives in Berlin, and besides working with guitarist Olaf Rupp and drummer Rudi Fischerlehner on this CD, frequently partners other advanced musicians in the German capital such as saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert and bassist Clayton Thomas. His balanced yet raucous style takes advantage of the horn’s slippery vocalism. Trombonist Matthias Muche on the other hand, is a Köln resident. Featured on Excerpts from Anything alongside pianist Philip Zoubek and bassist Achim Tang, he also often works with dancers and multi-media artists, and his playing, at least here, seems more minimalist and formalist than Müller’s.

One of the reasons for Müller’s freedom of expression on the five tracks which make up the CD is the sympathetic interaction among the trio members. Austrian-born Fischerlehner, who is now also Berlin-based and, who also creates soundtracks for video and installations, avoids excessive percussiveness to concentrate on the tinctures available from lightly applied cymbal quivers or chromatically oriented pops or paradiddles. Switching between acoustic and electric guitars, Rupp, another Berliner who has worked with the likes of bassist Joe Williamson and drummer Tony Buck, takes advantage of the characteristic attributes of each six-string. Commonly strumming southwards, with pinches and snaps, elsewhere he uses slurred fingering and oscillated friction to stimulate more free-form improv. An instance of this occurs on “Meknais” as the guitarist contrapuntally slides staccato pulses alongside the drummer’s super-speedy rolls and rim shots as Müller’s supple tongue-fluttering displays continuous forward motion. As the trombonist mutters and growls, his work is underlined with guitar string strums and plinks.

Throughout, the three often operate in triple counterpoint with timbres continuously bleeding together. While Fischerlehner splatters rhythms from low-pitched percussion or vibrates sympathetic beats, Rupp’s guitar reverb or quivering strings makes common cause with Müller’s trombone tonguing that encompasses craggy slurs from within the body tube and brassy upturns. The heartbeat-synched improvisations reach an apogee on the longest and title track. Müller’s accented air wafts in such a fashion as to meet up with the drummer’s balanced beats, while Rupp’s leisurely sustained drones and friction-laden strums combine with the trombonist’s snarls and barks. The performance’s final variations downshift to a leisurely tempo with the guitarist rubbing unique textures from his strings, the drummer rolling, popping and rebounding, while the trombonist’s extended slurs define the narrative

As leisurely and relaxed as the Berlin-based trio sometimes sounds on its CD, the overall texture is that of jagged liveliness. In contrast, Excerpts from Anything is more claustrophobic the Köln trio more concerned with microtonal intonation as it works through that disc’s five tracks. Besides Muche’s approach which is as studied as Müller’s is liberating, the other trio members are similarly inner-directed. Pianist Philip Zoubek, who has worked with synthesizer player Thomas Lehn and bassist Wilbert de Joode among others, prepares his instrument so its musical points are made via stopped and plucked strings which frequently utilize the timbres engendered by vibrating objects upon them. Berlin-born, bassist Achim Tang has played with everyone from Austrian saxophonist Max Nagl to American vocalist Linda Sharrock. Confined mostly to directional pacing, when the trombonist’s plunger work is at full roar and prepared piano strings quiver with near cacophony and strained multiphonics, the bass contributions often seem to disappear.

Overall the trio doesn’t appear to come alive until the CD’s second sequence. At that point the pacing picks up, and focused eloquent playing is divided among woody string slaps from Tang, Zoubek’s vibrating piano strings and the trombonist’s growls and tongue flutters. A climax is reached on the fifth track at a point where individual instrumental tones are nearly indistinguishable from one another. Finally the harmonic overtones from the double bass are stretched enough to join the ratcheting piano action until both fade to silence. Earlier on, it takes Muche’s pure-toned growl moving to the foreground for Zoubek’s marimba-like preparations and Tang’s minimalist plinks assert themselves enough to join in a jerky unison play.

Both of these trios provide virtuosic instances of insightful improvised music, with the Berliners having a slight edge because of their brighter execution. In truth it appears as if either of the similarly named trombonists could, without too much of a strain. play with the other’s musical mates. Or perhaps a future MM squared session could be arranged.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Tingtingk: 1. Melum 2. Ruru 3. Meknais 4. Bikbus 5. Tingtingk

Personnel: Tingtingk: Matthias Müller (trombone); Olaf Rupp (acoustic and electric guitars) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums)

Track Listing: Excerpts: 1. Excerpts from Anything 1 2. Excerpts from Anything 2 3. Excerpts from Anything 3 4. Excerpts from Anything 4 5. Excerpts from Anything 5

Personnel: Excerpts: Matthias Muche (trombone); Philip Zoubek (piano) and Achim Tang (bass)