Birgit Ulher

Live at Teni Zvuka 2012
1000fusler 24

Birgit Ulher & Gregory Büttner

Araripepipra

Hideous Replica HR4

Continuing her journey to unite the improvisational autonomy of Free Music with the grinding aggression of Noise Music, Hamburg-based trumpeter Birgit Ulher is ranging further afield sonically and geographically. Although Araripepipra was recorded with fellow Hamburger Gregory Büttner, the well-travelled electroacoustic sound artist creates his textures from computer, loudspeakers, objects and an electric fan. Travelling eastwards Live is one long solo piece plus a shorter collaboration between the trumpeter and two Russian specialists in exceptionally amplified improvisation. Both St. Petersburg-based, Ilia Belorukov uses an ipad with sine waves, mini-speakers with preparations and objects, while Andrey Popovskiy sticks to motors, an e-bows, mini-amp, Dictaphone, contact mic plus, surfaces and objects.

While there are some compelling and provocative sounds emanating during the two long tracks that make up Live and the eight shorter ones which characterize the other CD, the interfaces run along the same unstructured, non-representative lines. Confirming the universality of non-specific timbres as well, neither disc sounds particularly German or Russian.

Instead, the fascination of the programs lies in noting how the players shape with plastic surgeon-like precision on what otherwise would be unconnected clamorous textures into a cognizant whole. Büttner and Ulher do this best on “Kongamato”, a fully coherent and near-mesmerizing performance. Having created an almost impenetrable sound mass, horror-movie-like organ-like tremolos and aviary brass beeps puncture this enough so a sense of movement is palpable. Then the sound dissipates. Peeping grace notes are used to advantage by the trumpeter. So are pure air puffs and buzzing drones. Whether hand-muted or sieved through her assortment of add-ons and extensions, distinctive brassy timbres add a reassuring humanity to the tracks. Mouthpiece suction plus tongue squeaks and whistles on “Igopogo” for instance, set up mercurial armor to take on Büttner’s output which here sounds completely mechanical and is made up of floor thumps and metal abrasions.

This is not to downplay Büttner’s contributions however. Sometimes his sound striations add up to a cornucopia of integrated tones that sound like they come from a perpetual-motion machine. But modifications, which can range from watery bubbles to computer static to hooting locomotive approximations, provide enough contrast to Ulher’s animalistic yelps and flutter-tonguing to set up contrapuntal challenges and melding.

There is less resolution on Live’s shorter track however. On a classic (wo)man verses machine scenario, Ulher’s horn – and peripherals – are arrayed against Popovskiy’s and Belorukov’s computer lab collection of implements. Luckily her ability to personalize the apparatus keeps the piece from turning into an android showcase. With full-on or foreshortened breaths, spit tones troll-like yelps and staccato sputters she uncovers enough grace notes to deconstruct the performance so as to create a place for her output among constantly inflating collection of jagged preparations and vibrating surfaces. Solo on the first track, she uses many of the techniques she has developed over the years, including mouthpiece osculation, vibrating a metal plate against the trumpet bell, overblowing into multiphonics and creating a shower of inner-tube like resonation to establish an unmistakable identity. A final intermezzo of that strategy joins high-pitched bird-like calls and sallow growls. Together these techniques add up to a harsh interface which combines mechanism, improvisation and strength.

No matter the circumstances, Ulher continues on a musical path that is as singular as it is striking as these CDs demonstrate. Listeners may decide to travel alongside her.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Araripepipra: 1. Araripepipra 2. Chaco-Pekari 3. Igopogo 4. Quagga 5. Kongamato 6. Aye-Aye 7. Tzuchinoko 8. Kouprey

Personnel: Araripepipra: Birgit Ulher (trumpet, radio, speaker, objects and speaker as mute); Gregory Büttner (computer, loudspeakers, objects and fan)

Track Listing: Live: 1. 24’04’’* 2. 12’04’

Personnel: Live: Birgit Ulher (trumpet, radio, speaker and objects [solo*]; Ilia Belorukov (ipad with sine waves, mini-speakers with preparations and objects) and Andrey Popovskiy (motors, e-bows, mini-amp, Dictaphone, contact mic, surfaces and objects)