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Reviews: Choices

Birgit Ulher: trumpet, radio, mutes, speaker
Lucio Capece: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, preparations, mini-megaphone

1. physical 9:13
2. chance 28:09
3. orbital 4:51

audio excerpt

Another Timbre





Sound of Music

On this album Lucio Capece plays bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, as well as various prepared things, and Birgit Ulher can be heard on trumpet and radio. Among many musicians Capece has collaborated with Radu Malfatti, and this may give you a hint of the approach – no firm conventions. The shimmer of the minutest sound is examined.
More and more Ulher proves to be one of the most remarkable trumpeters in the new generation of reevaluating instrumentalists, and when the two play together remarkable things happen. It is a music that comes in dense structures. For start, it can be heard clearly who is who. Actually, it can be heard all the way, but not in the way we are used to.
Inspired by each other the playing becomes a kind of echo-game. A call is matched by a truncated response. Where are you? - are you ... Affinities of sounds arises, captured and processed by the qualities and possibilities of their instruments.
The result is a slow and snaking stream of sound that also is remarkably rhythmic. Yet, how does this shimmer? It is streaming as a flow of light, where mirror images are complementing the reflections. The result is undeniably irresistible. It is an impressionistic art of sound without impressionism, where the only thing that is left is the light. The music of this duo is so dense that it reminds of the tension in the air that arouses by unexpected pauses. It sounds incredibly fresh and clear.

Thomas Millroth (translated by Johan Redin),
www.soundofmusic.nu


The Jazzmann

Closer is a fine illustration of its creators’ individually stated concerns. Birgit Ulher is an improviser committed (according to a statement on her web page) to the development of a “grammar of sounds beyond the open trumpet”. Based in Hamburg, she also organises the cities’ Real Time Music Meeting festival for improvised music. Lucio Capeche (on his blog) describes his art as “no narrative music (no start-no ending-no developments)…sound in its most granular characteristics and its extremes”. Across the duration of its long central live recording and two flanking studio takes, the “Choices” album is an even-handed work of close interplay between these two perfectly matched instrumentalists. They sometimes do little more than exploit the raw sonic potential of their reeds and brass. At other times the effects they produce are much more refined, noises shaped to sound out in playful rumination or pure abstract beauty. In either mode, the duo extract from their instruments all the various tonalities of a larger ensemble, exploiting percussive potentialities to remarkable effect and drawing upon a range of breath sounds from plosive and guttural to ethereal. They coax from their ostensibly limited instrumentation a more astonishing range of effects than many talented musicians can manage with sophisticated sound processing equipment.

Tim Owen, www.thejazzmann.com


Vitalweekly

Four discs of improvised music, twice a duo and twice a trio. (...) Two instruments more closely together is the bass clarinet, soprano saxophone and preparations of Lucio Capece and the trumpet, radio and speaker of Birgit Ulher. Three pieces, two captured in Capece's studio and one in concert, all in 2010. These two players use extensively their instruments as objects. Its not always easy to believe that these sounds are produced by these instruments, but its in the capable hands of Capece and Ulher that it works well. An excellent combination of improvised music and electro-acoustic sounds. Minimal, but never soft, or rather, much more noise based than I thought it would, anticipating their reputation. Much of that is duo to the use of feedback/sine wave like sounds which are a main feature on this release. A highly vibrant release, bursting with energy. Of these four new releases (Spiral inputs by Sophie Agnel, Bertrand Gauguet & Andrea Neumann / Horsky Park by Tiziana Bertoncini & Thomas Lehn / Grape Skin by Michel Doneda, Jonas Kocher & Christoph Schiller / Choices by Birgit Ulher & Lucio Capece) on Another Timbre its the two duo releases that have the greatest impact.

Frans de Waard, vitalweekly, 781


The Whole Note

Electronic impulses in microtonal settings characterize the improvisations advanced by Hamburg-based trumpeter Birgit Ulher in a duo with Argentina-born reedist Lucio Capece on Choices (Another Timbre at41 www.anothertimbre.com <http://www.anothertimbre.com> ). Reducing her horn’s output to muted shakes, buzzes and vibrations amplified by a radio set up, Ulher proves that cunning can be substituted for stamina to produce notable improvisations. With the timbres of Capece’s bass clarinet or soprano saxophone filtered by preparations as air is harshly forced through the body tube, Ulher’s capillary pressures and metallic reverberations produce sympathetic polyphony. Chance is the most extended example, with both sound sources juddering and undulating as they combine for both chalumeau growls and strident squeals. With sonic suggestions of a hamster running on a wheel or of wisps of wind wafting upwards, the results are collective not individual. Although distinct strategies such as Ulher's use of a metal plate as a mute to create maximum vibrations, or Capece’s reed bites and tongue stopping elongating tones without resorting to electronics appear, fascination results from tracing the evolution of this disassociated and dissonant sound picture not the ending. Yet the bubbling, shaking, straining and squeaking eventually produce tones that are satisfyingly cumulative and cooperative.

Ken Waxman, www.thewholenote.com


Nutida Musik

Hamburgbaserade Birgit Ulher tillhör de musiker som under senare år har slagit sönder de traditionella instrumentens klangliga konventioner. Inte för att söka efter dramatiska effekter utan för att hitta nya ljudliga former att arbeta med. I en intervju i den brittiska tidningen The Wire säger Ulher exempelvis att trumpetens möjligheter inom mer expressiva musikaliska former som frijazz, i vilka hon också verkat, är begränsade. Detta eftersom förändrade och utvecklade tekniker på just trumpeten jobbar alldeles för lågmält och tyst för att kunna hävda sig. Kanske är detta ett av svaren till varför just detta instrument är så väl representerat inom den så kallade lågdynamiska improvisationsmusiken med utövare som Axel Dörner, Sabine Ercklentz, Franz Hautzinger, Greg Kelley som några trumpetande exempel. Förutom Birgit Ulher då.
Senast ut i Ulhers omfattande skivkatalog är en duoskiva (inspelad 2010) med den argentinske saxofonisten/klarinettisten Lucio Capece, nu boende i Berlin. Ulher på trumpet, radio, sordiner och högtalare och Capece på basklarinett, sopransaxofon, preparationer och minimegafon. Mellan dem finns ett starkt släktskap i uttrycket. Ledord är mikrotonalitet, cirkulär andning, klangliga streck, koncentration och annorlunda tekniker att frambringa ljud. Vanligtvis inom musik finns en rörelse som leder den framåt – som melodier, rytmik, dynamik eller andra dramaturgiska grepp – samt angivna starter och avslut. Fascinerande nog saknas mycket av detta i Ulhers och Capeces märkvärdiga musik. Själva essensen är istället ljuden i sig, och naturligtvis hur de förhåller sig till varandra.
Det tycks mig som att varken Ulher eller Capece fullständigt vill främmandegöra instrumentens konventionella klanger. Även om det inte alltid är så, är det ofta man tydligt hör att det är just trumpet det handlar om, eller basklarinett eller sopransax. Luftens vägar genom instrumenten färgar av sig. Klangliga streck ritas upp – försvinner – nya linjer dras. Ibland, men förhållandevis sällan, närmar sig klangerna de elektroniskt ljudande. Det är mycket flyktigt. Med detta sagt är det märkligt hur stor dragningskraft musiken ändå har. En av förklaringarna till detta är hur bra Ulher och Capece passar ihop, deras långa klanger löper parallellt, tvinnas samman och rör sig inom samma områden. Båda har dessutom ett rikt och spännande uttryck i deras respektive instrument.

Magnus Nygren, Nutida Musik (No 2, 2011)


CM

It’s the first album by duo (Lucio Capece - saxophone and Birgit Ulher – trumpet) released on the english label Another Timbre. Both musicians are known by their individual approach to sound, including a lot of preparations and using different extraneus objects (radio, mini speaker, mini megaphone).
On the first track, Capece and Ulher advance parallel lines almost without intersections as if they are afraid to set foot on territory of persistent sound pressure. You hear sounds from different sides (channels) but these pieces are being played very carefully and short. At the same time there are no joint pauses. The second track is a long (about 28 minutes) fragment of the duo’s concert in Hamburg. A more solid texture gets perceptible immediately. It’s a circular breathing and different preparations by Capece combined with short and sharp phrases by Ulher. And on the second part of the track it all gets clearer, bass clarinet plays with clean tones while trumpet still leads its line bursting into the space pointy. The last track alike the first one was taken from a studio session in Berlin and it’s an acoustic drone. Both tracks sound more thought-out and prepared than the concert one.
Undoubtedly this album is a gift for fans of the EAI aesthetics, played on acoustic instruments. And it can be already called the one of the best for this year so far.

russian:
Первый альбом дуэта саксофониста Лусио Капече (Lucio Capece) и трубачки Биржит Ульхер (Birgit Ulher) на английском лейбле Another Timbre.  Оба музыканта известны своим индивидуальным подходом к звуку, включающим в себя многочисленные препарирования и использование различных посторонних предметов (радио, мини-спикер, мини-мегафон и др.).
В первом треке Капече и Ульхер ведут параллельные линии, но пересекаются нечасто, как будто боясь ступить на территорию постоянного звукового давления. Вместо этого ты либо слышишь звук справа, либо слева, либо с 2х сторон, но все эти кусочки играются очень осторожно и непродолжительно, при этом совместных пауз в музыке нет. Вторым треком является продолжительный (около 28 минут) фрагмент концерта дуэта в Гамбурге. Сразу слышна более плотная фактура, со стороны Капече  это перманентное дыхание и различные препарирования, Ульхер же работает больше с короткими, острыми фразами. Вторая половина трека становится чище, бас-кларнет играет на чистых тонах, тем временем труба так же ведет свою линию, врываясь в пространство точечно. Последний трек, как и первый, взят из студийной сессии в Берлине и представляет собой акустический дрон. Оба звучат продуманнее и подготовленнее, нежели концерт. Безусловно, этот альбом - подарок любителям эстетики ЭАИ, сыгранной на акустических инструментах и уже сейчас этот релиз можно назвать в числе лучших за текущий год..


Ilia Belorukov, CM 1.2011, russian magazine for contemporary music.


le son du grisli

Choices dirait en haut-parleurs ce que même les intéressés n’avaient osé murmurer: Lucio Capece et Birgit Ulher sont faits pour jouer ensemble.
Formant un duo de souffles et de salives en embarcation divaguant, le saxophoniste / clarinettiste et la trompettiste – le premier embouchant parfois un mégaphone miniature et la seconde interrogeant un poste de radio et ces haut-parleurs cités plus haut – élaborent des trajectoires longues comme le pouce, donc : des trajectoires multipliées en conséquence.
Pour corser l’affaire, le bateau pop-pop quand ce n’est pas la barque qui craque. Et puis les vents s’emmêlent. Cherchant des solutions, Capece et Ulher fouillent, raclent, tournent en éperdus et finissent par tisser un fil de notes plus claires qui entrent en résonance et font contrepoids agissant. C’est donc le mouvement que le duo retient, la réaction en chaîne qu’il empêche. D’ondes premières en ondes ajoutées, Capece et Ulher – qui, l’un comme l’autre, ont connu déjà de beaux redressements en duos – s’accordent sur une autre et surtout singulière dérive.


Guillaume Belhomme, http://grisli.canalblog.com


Improv Sphere

Sur ce troisième disque de la dernière série Another Timbre, deux souffleurs systématiquement affiliés à la scène réductionniste: Birgit Ulher à la trompette et Lucio Capece aux clarinette et saxophone, les deux utilisant aussi de nombreux objets et préparations. De nombreux paysages se profilent, des sons indéterminés surgissent, les notes et l'utilisation orthodoxe des instruments sont refoulées, en bref, Ulher et Capece ouvrent un univers très vaste.
Physical, qui ouvre la cérémonie, est basé sur un bourdon joué alternativement par Ulher et Capece, entre le blast et le drone, un bourdon aussi mécanique qu'organique qui laisse entendre du bois, du métal, du souffle et des rouages. Birgit Ulher se superpose alors à ce bourdon instable (qui évolue de manière minimale) et crache, éructe, siffle, souffle, grésille et tousse, principalement à travers son embouchure. Un duo assez traditionnel somme toute, où un soliste se greffe à une basse, sauf que le temps est strié bizarrement, et que les notes laissent place à une indétermination du son. Ulher et Capece démontrent en fait qu'une forme de musique est possible au-delà de l'échelle chromatique, tout en conservant les formes passées, même si la structure est quelque peu bigarrée du fait de nombreuses des alternances, des fractures et de silences inattendus.
Sur Chance, de loin la plus longue pièce (presque 30 min.), la paysage a quelque chose de désolé du fait de l'omniprésence de souffles qui rappellent des bourrasques apocalyptiques, des résonances irrégulières de métaux qui suggèrent l'abandon de l'industrie. La perception s'aiguise, il devient très difficile de savoir qui fait quoi et comment, si le son est instrumental ou préparé, organique ou mécanique. Chance organise un vaste horizon de timbres inouïs et créatifs qui s'assemblent et s'entremêlent, s'opposent et se confrontent, mais qui toujours apparaissent en fonction des intentions du partenaire. L'écoute est très attentionnée et sensible, l'entente très réussie donc, ce duo sait saisir les chances (en opérant certains choix) qui déploient toutes les qualités et les talents de chacun, pour ne former qu'une seule personne à la fin, sans se fondre intégralement dans le dialogue au point d'en perdre sa personnalité.
Birgit Ulher et Lucio Capece concluent avec une courte pièce de 5 minutes, Orbital, qui assimile complètement les sources instrumentales aux sources électriques (ondes de radio). Capece laisse discrètement et affectueusement émerger quelques notes instables et fluctuantes de son soprano sur le bourdon monotone et agressif des ondes afin de rééquilibrer l'ensemble, de l'harmoniser. Une belle pièce électroacoustique où l'acoustique sait apprivoiser l'électrique, où l'équilibre entre les deux se fait musique, une pièce qui laisse ouvert et en suspens un monde nouveau fait d'énergies et de timbres nouveaux .
Choices ne fait que rarement varier les intensités, mais l'énergie se module constamment, au gré des équilibres agencés par le duo, au gré des qualités du timbre lui-même (de ses qualités essentielles et/ou accidentelles). Les trois pièces se déploient sur des durées également variées, et ces temporalisations contribuent tout autant à la diversification des énergies. Ces temporalités permettent aussi de déployer de nombreuses caractéristiques allant du sentiment d'urgence à l'émergence lente et sereine du timbre et de l'équilibre des forces. Trois pièces fortes, cohérentes et riches qui instaurent un nouveau règne des sons, un règne de timbres riches, complexes et luxuriants dont l'avènement est souhaitable, voire préférable.

Julien Heraud, Improve Sphere, 16 mai 2011


Bad Alchemy

Choices (at41) ist nur auf dem Papier ein Bläserduett. Zwar sind Trompete, Bassklarinette & Sopranosaxophon im Einsatz. Aber wenn BIRGIT ULHER und LUCIO CAPECE damit spielen, ist 'Blasen' so weit weg von der ganzen Wahrheit, dass es fast schon gelogen ist. Es wird geblubbert, gefaucht, geflatterzüngelt, knarrig gebrodelt. 'Physical' ist ganz minimalistisch nur nach diesen Methoden erzeugt. In zirkular-beatmeten Dauermustern, in deren gepresstem Getucker und Gezucke auch blecherne Präparationen mitvibrieren. Das lange Titelstück macht einen windigeren und räumlicheren Eindruck. Die Technik ist dabei so extented wie zuvor. Blubbrige Impulsketten mit metalloid schnarrenden Nebengeräuschen. Man hört auch das schniefende Luftholen, das dieser perkussiv verunklarten Metabläserei den Treibstoff liefert. Knurrend, schnarrig schnaubend, klapprig, mit Kullerlauten und blechernem Schrillen zeigt sich dieser Beitrag zum Blurred Edges Festival 2010 in Hamburg ganz dazu geeignet, statt eines Totenkopfes eine Gießkanne am Nachthimmel über St. Pauli aufgehen zu sehen. 'Orbital', die zweite kleine Studioaufnahme, verhilft, wenn ich mich nicht irre, einem minimalistischen Dauerhalteton mit Radio zur Verlängerung seines Istzustandes. Die Stoßrichtung dieses 'Blasens' ist, wie mir scheint, weitgehend antillusionistisch, materialbetont, der Physik näher als der Musik. Wie eine Testreihe, die darauf abstellt, dem Teufel im Detail auf die Spur zu kommen.

Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy #70


Touching Extremes

Capece and Ulher belong to the early generation of improvisers who – seems like a century ago – opened a huge door to a multitude of beguilers convinced that all it takes is emitting humid purrs and toneless scratching to become known (and, let’s face it – they were right: in most instances those people did get famous, thanks both to the incessant plugging applied by selected chunks of the “specialized” press, and to the need of easy solutions to grasp in growing multitudes of bleary-eyed audiences). Choices is not the best we’ve heard from either of the participants, but it does possess credentials. Firstly, the seriousness of the names involved, enough to eliminate any possibility of tackiness; secondly, the restriction of the field of investigation is an advantage rather than a handicap this time, the total duration of 41 minutes (in my opinion, the proper limit for this type of music) pulling out the “stop” signal at the appropriate moment.
In terms of sonic content, three main sorts of acoustic emanation establish the record’s constitutional palette, and they remain manifest – with a good degree of detail and differentiation of the single players – throughout the course of three tracks, of which the central and longest one is a live segment of nearly half an hour. The first trait is the by now “classic” expansion of the air currents that flow inside the instruments (bass clarinet, soprano sax and trumpet), whose popularity in this reviewer’s taste has been steadily diminishing of late; change the implementations and the tricks, but amplified breath in a conduit sounds approximately the same everywhere. The second aspect has to do with researching into percussive pulsation, obtained with preparations that cause a rhythmical “flapping” comparable, in certain circumstances, to that of a snare drum (of a metallic variety, perhaps). The third, and more gratifying facet is provided by the proximity of actual pitches in pseudo-static configuration, gritty clusters and blistering droning pushing the whole towards levels of uncomfortable intensity that are not reached in other parts of the album. This is specially explicated in the final piece “Orbital”, deeply typified by Ulher’s radio.
A solid, if unspectacular CD kept afloat by the artists’ earnestness and sense of direction.

Massimo Ricci, touchingextremes.wordpress.com July 27, 2012

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