Leonel Kaplan/Christof Kurzmann/Edén Carrasco

Casa Corp
Dromos 009


The Fire Throws

Insubordinations Insubcd 05

Two horn-based trios explore the outer edges of morphed volume control and time synthesis on these releases, testing and defining sonic limits. Essentially a cumulative record of undifferentiated expelled air, Berlin-based Trigger mixes nephritic intonation from American Chris Heenan’s contrabass clarinet with the shivering or calculated pitches of Nils Ostendorf’s trumpet plus Matthias Müller’s trombone, during eight mid-length tracks. In contrast, the Buenos Aires-based threesome on Casa Corp aims for a varied aesthetic, moving from the nearly inaudible to the practically unbearable during a single 33-minute improvisation. The players are less homogenous as well. Although trumpeter Leonel is native Argentinean, alto saxophonist Edén Carrasco is from Chile; and Christof Kurzmann who uses the live-improvising, interactive ppooll software is a transplanted Austrian.

The South Americans, who have also played at points with guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama, trumpeter Birgit Ulher and saxophonist Michel Doneda, are obsessed with patching, spinning and whistling air sourced from within their horns’ body tubes, usually without valve or key movement. The result can be guess-the-source textures or dense, blurry tones that appear to be impenetrable. At the same time some of the spatially-centred and quivering pumps and presses arise from Kurzmann’s networked Max patches. In fact when what sounds like claw-hammer string strums from a balalaika are heard between hissing modulations or thunderous reverb, the source is probably the ppooll. It’s also these times when Carrasco’s and Kaplan’s otherwise extended techniques turn to recognizable tropes, with brassy grace notes from one axe, plus reed slurs and tongue slaps from the other.

Oddly at the same time as the computer generator’s signal-processed rhythmic undercurrent or motor-driven flanges set out to shove the program into pure abstraction, Kurzmann, to signal the performance’s end, intermittently and conclusively recites agit-prop lyrics. Unusually sang to the melody of “O Tannenbaum”, Kurzmann’s off-handed sing-speech version of Jim Connell’s 1889 song “We’ll keep the Red Flag Flying”, anthem of the British and Irish labor parties, may have a different resonance in South American situations. Suggesting that “beneath its folds we’ll live and die though cowards flinch and traitors sneer” he brandishes hyper-realistic sentiments that may resonate in countries such as Chile and Argentina which have suffered under harsh dictatorships. Then again he recites the lyrics in English rather than Spanish or Portuguese.

Changing locales and continents, Trigger’s harsh spatial expansion seems strictly non-political and overwhelmingly committed to sound experimentation for its own sake. By the same token while the narrative cohesion is tighter than that expressed by Kaplan, Kurzmann and Carrasco, Ostendorf, Müller and Heenan often have to work overtime to source individual tones and prevent each track from sounding too similar to the previous or subsequent ones. Sporadically as well, at times the straightforward wave forms, oscillated slurs and strident squeals output by the players accelerate to agitated, undifferentiated sludge. More often than that, a textural shift on one or another of the musicians’ part(s) avoids that trap.

Most notable are narratives such as “Anchialine” and “Talus”. On the first, pedal-point torque from Heenan’s horn shudders with tremolo lows as Müller snorts and Ostendorf blows unaccented air through his horn. Following Heenan inflating his tone to strident timbres, he suddenly cuts off his sounds as the other two percussively smack their instruments’ metal with their palms. Earlier, “Talus” demonstrates how the trombonist, who elsewhere works with the likes of guitarist Olaf Rupp, can speedily slide from clear plunger tones to those which provide a rhythmic ostinato. Meanwhile the trumpeter whistles and chirps, as Heenan, freed from the usual arrangement of his tones on the bottom, has the freedom to output watery reed kisses and tongue stop with only a bit of irregular vibrato. In general though, the stand-out track may be “Littoral” which is anything but a literal replication of usual horn blending. Instead after the three improvisers compress textures into what appears to be a mulched, strident and concentrated drone, a wriggling, distinctive narrative eventually breaks out.

Unconventional instrument connections lead to inimitable programs. While neither trio reaches a fully satisfying conclusion, each program calls for deep listening to understand how the participants structure their responses to sonic challenges.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fire: 1. Karst 2. Talus 3. Littoral 4. Anchialine 5. Fracture 6. Scree 7. Tufa 8. Corrasional

Personnel: Fire: Nils Ostendorf (trumpet); Matthias Müller (trombone) and Chris Heenan (contrabass clarinet)

Track Listing: Casa: 1. Casa Corp

Personnel: Casa: Leonel Kaplan (trumpet); Edén Carrasco (alto saxophone) and Christof Kurzmann (ppooll and voice)