Suboko & Hübsch & Spieth

k-horns
Schraum 14

Thomas Lehn/Carl Ludwig Hübsch/Philip Zoubek/Franz Hautzinger

LHZ + H

Monotype Records mono044

Minimalist soundscapes which position uniquely exceptional brass timbres with equally anomalous tones from other instruments are the congruent points of these CDs. Additionally while both discs were subjected to post-production re-mixing, it’s the initial context which makes each appealing.

Another connection is that Köln-based tubaist Carl Ludwig Hübsch is present on both sessions, twisting his valves and focused breaths into equally atypical timbres. Although he actually demonstrates more expected tuba qualities on LHZ + H than k-horns. Hübsch, whose experience encompasses everything from improvising as part of an all-horns trio to section work and solos in large, more formally constituted ensembles, is joined on LHZ + H by three Teutonic sound explorers. Vienna-based Franz Hautzinger, whose quarter-tone trumpet with delay is one of the CD’s salient features, is joined by German synthesizer player Thomas Lehn who now lives in Vienna, plus the prepared piano of Dutch-born, Köln-resident Philip Zoubek.

Hautzinger’s opposite number on k-horns is Karlsruhe-based trumpeter Roland Spieth, who works with Berlin musicians such as bassist Axel Haller and guitarist Torsten Papenheim. However what may make this CD more opaque than the other is that the final mix was done by the members of the Strasbourg percussion trio Suboko who also play on the CD. Drummer Pascal Gully, turntablist and percussionist Nicolas Boutine and Laurent Berger, who plays drums and electronics, are singly and together immersed in usually contrary styles such as chamber music, techno and avant rock. Mixing these sonic strands with brass improvisations produces an exquisite, if somewhat dark session.

K-horns’ five short selections multiply the intonation from wide-bore, low-pitched brass slurs, distinctive clear air blown through the trumpet without augmentation or general valve work by mutatating these techniques so they bond with percussive and electronic impulses. Among the drummers’ contributions are outlined ruffs, shuffles and rubs which often make common cause with tuba burbles and trumpet grace notes. Meanwhile backwards-running and repetitive speech is sampled and shoehorned into the mix by the turntablist; while oscillated buzzes and signal-processed loops not only time stretch the crackling electronics, but also add accordion-like quivers, replication of human cries and outer-space-like vibrations which pulsate distantly underneath the selections. Furthermore the shape of certain selections is directed by triangle pings or ricocheting drum bounces.

Alongside all this, Hübsch’s and Spieth’s capillary versatility is showcased. The tubaist contributes sequences that encompass tones that could be trumpeted by an angry elephant or stretched throughout an alpine valley from a hunting horn, while the trumpeter includes duck-like quacking, muted bugle calls-to-arms and staccato bites in his solos.

More instrumental versatility is on tap with LHZ + H, recorded 18 months earlier and consisting of four longer selections. It’s the more traditional of the two discs, if traditional is a word that can be ascribed to either session. Each tune on LHZ + H begins with a solid brass line from quarter-tone trumpet or tuba, with Zoubek’s string twanging, picking and plucking an important part of the resulting polyphony. At the same time the electronic synthesis is less prominent and more easily isolated here than on k-horns. A selection such as “Scope” for instance includes cricket-like background rubs plus gradually accelerating sequences of synthesizer runs and recoils plus tongue twisting delays and rubbery bubbling from Hautzinger. Just as prominent though is Zoubek’s piano motions which encompass metronomic or unaffiliated key strokes as well as glockenspiel-like chimes on unwound internal strings. Plus there’s room for Hübsch’s guttural and paced slurs.

Ironically most of the polyphonic and polyrhythmic interaction which permeates the disc still manages to expose underlying electronic drones, while highlighting distinctive virtuosity that can take the form of individual synthesizer farts from Lehn, heraldic tones from the trumpeter, rubato blowing from the tubaist and Zoubek’s pedal power which increases keyboard pressures with soundboard echoes.

Adapting brass and electronic programming to either a percussion or string focus within a completely improvised program is the challenge and conclusion of these four- and five-piece ensembles. That each produces an equally alluring CD is a tribute to their collective musical smarts and each musician’s faith in one another’s abilities.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: k-horns: 1. ein 2. tag 3. vor 4. zwei 5. jahren

Personnel: k-horns: Roland Spieth (trumpet); Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba) and Suboko: Bouto [Nicolas Boutine], [Pascal] Gully and Regreb [Laurent Berger] (drums, metals, turntables, electronics and objects)

Track Listing: LHZ + H: 1. Zoom 2. Scope 3. Lens 4. Hal

Personnel: LHZ + H: Franz Hautzinger (quarter-tone trumpet with delay); Carl Ludwig Hübsch, (tuba); Philip Zoubek (piano) and Thomas Lehn (analog synthesizer)