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Reviews: Kolk

Birgit Ulher: trumpet, radio, speaker, objects
Christoph Schiller: spinet, preparations

1. Auflast (5:33)
2. Sediment (6:38)
3. Geröll (10:12)
4. Kolk (7:42)
5. Bult (4:23)


CD, digisleeve, recorded on October 26th, 2010 in Hamburg
"kolk" youtube extract

Another Timbre



Just Outside

Schiller plays a spinet (prepared), not an instrument one encounters everyday in this field. Given the preparations, one is hesitant to say anything about its basic sound, but given that it's variously defined as both a kind of harpsichord and piano, my impression of its being about midway between seems about right. In any case, it's a fine fit with Ulher's grainy, unpredictable trumpet and, at best, produces some choice moments. The duo isn't the easiest nut to crack and it took this listener some metaphorical shifting around in my seat to get comfortable, to sync myself with the flow. This is often the case, for me, with Ulher's music (on disc, that is; live it's as natural as breathing); I'm only marginally familiar with Schiller's work but perhaps it's the same. Sonics aside, it doesn't particularly stand apart from other work in the sphere but it's simply good, solid, gnarly music and some days, like this morning, that's enough.

Brian Olewnick http://olewnick.blogspot.de/


Improv Sphere

Étrangement, j'ai l'impression que Birgit Ulher ne fait jamais de disque de plus de quarante minutes. Comme si elle avait peur d'ennuyer ou de fatiguer l'auditeur avec ses méthodes d'exploration radicale et extrême de la trompette. Car si sa musique et ses couleurs sont passionnantes, c'est tout de même dur d'écoute, dur pour ses aspects bruitistes, extrêmes et minimalistes. Ceci-dit, c'est loin d'être critique envers la forme des improvisations pratiquées par cette musicienne, je dis ceci plutôt par admiration, car c'est extrêmement agréable de ressentir l'attention qu'elle peut porter au public, tout en ne faisant aucun compromis.
Pour Kolk, c'est Christoph Schiller (épinette, préparations) qui accompagne Birgit Ulher (trompette, radio, haut-parleur, objets). Ensemble, ils improvisent cinq courtes pièces où les aspects abrasifs et granuleux de la trompette étendue sont contrebalancés par la douceur et la délicatesse de cette sorte de clavecin qu'est l'épinette. De toutes manières, malgré les couleurs bruitistes et extrêmes, malgré l'absence de formes mélodiques, malgré les oppositions entre les deux musiciens, il y a toujours une forme de sensibilité et de délicatesse dans cette suite. Chacun de ces improvisateurs porte une grande attention à l'écoute, mais aussi à l'espace et au silence. Chaque pièce paraît être une mise en scène de l'espace sonore. Mise en espace du son et scénographie du bruit, deux formes qui amènent Christoph et Birgit à une exploration sonore intense des instruments comme de l'espace. Une exploration profonde, comme on peut s'y attendre de la part de ces deux musiciens, qui font sans cesse preuve d'originalité et de créativité avec une étendue impressionnante de techniques étendues, de préparations instrumentales, et de recherches sonores pures.
L'interaction entre les deux musiciens est profonde et intime, sans pour autant être dans un jeu d'imitation. Chacun possède son propre vocabulaire, singulier et original, mais chacun soutient l'autre dans une direction unique. Il s'agit de construire un seul et même espace, à l'aide de son propre langage, mais la singularité de chacun, même si elle est pleinement affirmée, tend à se fondre dans la recherche sonore et spatiale. Deux fortes personnalités au service d'un espace sonore à la fois, au service d'un univers sonore par pièce. Je parlais plus haut de l'attention de Birgit au public, mais celle-ci ne s'arrête pas là. C'est aussi à ses collaborateurs que Birgit porte une attention exceptionnelle. Il y a une forme de grande attention et de respect entre chacun, il y a toujours de la place et de l'espace pour le discours de l'un comme de l'autre, qu'il soit calme, bruitiste, silencieux, granuleux, harmoniques, corrosifs, etc. L'inventivité de chacun trouve sa place à tout moment, sans que jamais l'un ou l'autre prenne le dessus ou la direction.
Une suite d'improvisations intenses, profondes, et riches en couleurs, complètement exempte de hiérarchies. Une forme égalitaire et alchimique de dialogue entre deux univers distincts qui se mélangent pour former un espace de recherche, d'exploration et de créativité exceptionnelles. Très bon.

Julien Héraud, http://improv-sphere.blogspot.de


The Watchful Ear

Some straight down the middle improv tonight then courtesy of Christoph Schiller and Birgit Ulher’s Kolk album on Another Timbre. Schiller plays spinet, a modified, prepared version of the early predecessor to the piano, and Ulher plays trumpet, with a radio, speaker and assorted other items added. On previous albums I have written about Ulher places a tiny speaker inside the bell of her trumpet, so that it can play sounds (presumably here from the radio) as she also plays the trumpet more conventionally. In fact there is little conventional about how the trumpet is used here, and the same should be said for the spinet as the duo make their music through a search for new and extended techniques for their respective instruments.
This review began by calling the album straight down the middle improv, which I think is an accurate statement in light of all the assorted conceptually assembled or digitally compiled albums I have written about of late, but its a hard to one pin down as belonging to one particular area of improv over another. The opening track Auflast sits maybe where we might expect it, full of growling metallic trumpet sounds and scraping, tinkling and whirring prepared spinet, not necessarily fast and frenzied, and using unfamiliar, textural sounds over straight instrumental playing but essentially an evenly balanced improv session that is a nice, if perhaps unremarkable listen. The second piece here though, the much more spacious and fragmented Sediment is a more interesting affair. Here the duo exchange tiny fragments of sound, initially quite slowly and with space between each of them, albeit not long spaces. As the track develops it becomes a little more fluid, but essentially throughout the music is made up of short, sharp stabs of sound that when assembled together form some kind of pointillistic discussion that sits as a pleasing contrast to the opening track. The third piece seems to combine the two approaches, with Ulher putting the radio to use to feed white noise through her instrument as Schiller picks and scrapes at smaller sounds he sprinkles over the top, the track gradually breaking from this formula to slide into a vaguely rhythmic routine of combined abstractions that I would struggle to identify as coming from these two instruments if I wasn’t already aware.
The other two tracks here inhabit a more familiar territory- slow, spacious and generally quite restrained meshes of hissing, popping, scraping and chiming improvisation, the qualities of the actual sounds as important as their placement, the way the two musicians’ contributions combine more important than any individual instrumental showmanship. The interplay is frequently lovely, the subtlety in the musical conversation marked, the confidence in the musical solutions chosen here to the natural problems of free improvisation pronounced, but in some ways, this is your average, everyday album of strong improvised music. Its an album I enjoyed listening to quite a bit on this dreary wet Sunday. Its a good CD but its also one likely to be consigned to the shelves and remembered merely as a good album of modern improv than something to be taken down and played again any time soon. Both musicians are fine improvisers, and this album is a nice showcase for their collaboration, but given that CDs of improvised music continue to tumble out into existence faster than anyone can listen to them there might not be enough of a spark here to stop Kolk getting lost amongst the crowds, which is an unfortunate, if perhaps inevitable shame. Maybe one of the best AT cover images I have seen yet however.

Richard Pinnell, August 6, 2012, thewatchfulear.com


Le son du grisli

Dans les bleus de la couverture de Kolk, on peut remarquer des veinures qui pourraient être les voies empruntées par les épinette et préparations de Christoph Schiller et les trompette, radio, haut-parleur et objets, de Birgit Ulher.
Cordes grattées ou frappées, trompette envisagée du bout des lèvres (voire de la gorge), les trajectoires traînent en longueurs et se confondent avant de disparaître dans un repli, creux véritable provoqué par la chute de coups défaits. Dans l’accumulation d’éléments disparates, Schiller et Ulher trouvent désormais leur bonheur insaisissable : la dissemblance de leurs instruments et la ressemblance de leurs usages facilitant quand même l'approche.
Grisailles d’un râle, suspensions d’aigus, prises d’échos, retour de cordes, égarent l’auditeur qui avait pourtant décidé de suivre lui aussi les veinures ; le voici égaré – Auflast, Sediment, Geröll, Kolk, Bult :  avoir été germanophone aurait-il aidé ? – mais ravi, qui loue la belle idée du rapprochement Schiller / Ulher.

Guillaume Belhomme © Le son du grisli


Jazzword

Birgit Ulher, Hochdruckzone, Entr'acte 134
Myelin, Axon, Intonema INT 003
Christoph Schiller/Birgit Ulher, Kolk, Another Timbre at 52

Consistently operating on the cutting edge of contemporary improvised brass music, Hamburg-based trumpeter Birgit Ulher is prepared for all sorts of challenges. This triptych of CDs recorded during one four-month period is particularly notable. Using the multiphonics available by processing her sounds through an attached transistor radio while employing various objects to alter the resulting timbres, she has produced an appropriately abstract solo threnody for Bill Dixon, another trumpet explorer, as well as demonstrated how timed reductionist improvising can be spread between two musicians.
Recorded less than a week after the death of American Dixon (1925-2010), Hochdruckzone is no melancholy dirge, but an individual extension of the unfussy, hushed playing in which Dixon specialized. Kolk matches her brass strategies which those of Swiss keyboardist Christoph Schiller, who prepares a Baroque-era spinet with metal, stones, polystyrene, a small cymbal etc., while activating it with a cello bow and e-bow. Axon on the other hand is a meeting with a familiar associate, French alto saxophonist Heddy Boubaker, who brings his own objects along. Medical problems have since forced Boubaker to abandon his saxophone for electric bass and synthesizer.
While more abstract than even Dixon might have imagined, Hochdruckzone’s eight selections are infrequently fortissimo, but are united in their circular architecture as mouth, tongue and throat are constricted to quiver breaths against unyielding surfaces. Containing lingering silences that separate the often foreshortened air blows from one another, the rough, perhaps processed, results aurally resemble the sounds of hamsters spinning wheels, a band-saw cutting through wood and a güiro being ratcheted. Among the bubbling reflux, staccato gargles and vibrating drones there are passages where air moves through the horn without valve movement.
That trope is more frequently put into action during Axon’s seven duets or “Impulses”. While Ulher also sounds effervescent lip-burbling and watery hisses as if from a dentist’s suction hose, Boubaker taps his reed against mouth cavity and lips, reed bites and finally expels flat lines whose piercing whistles are sharp and jittery. Together the two deconstruct textures, affiliating animal-like squeaks, rolling sibilate tones, cavernous tube echoes and pops. At points each instrument’s natural tone is heard. But these brief interludes of brassy triplets or reed-squeezed bent notes serve to underline the mouth motions taking place during the remainder of the disc.
Redefining instruments as sound sources and deconstructing expected timbres are markedly more prominent on Kolk, as the preparations on Schiller’s spinet vibrate alongside Ulher’s objects. With bows, chopsticks, rulers and other implements foreshortening or buzzing the instrument’s strings as he prods, plucks and rubs them, the results are met with full-bore growls or, to add further aleatory excitement, near static lines from the trumpeter. Since Schiller can produce harp-like angled arpeggios as well as isolated plucks or key clipping at will, Ulher’s strategy has to be that much more discursive. Mostly operating in parallel lines to the spinet, whether she strains piercing growls from the trumpet’s body, French kisses the mouthpiece, moves air through a hollow tube or erupts into a series of bugle-like cries, the results provide a theatrical response plus the satisfaction of hearing these duets completed.
One again demonstrating talent playing on her own or in much different textural set ups with others, Ulher continues to pioneer a new identity for the trumpet. Whether it can be accepted for what it is, putting aside historical associations with brass instruments is a question each listener must answer him or herself. The more adventurous ones will be enthralled and awed.

Ken Waxman, December 1, 2012, www.jazzword.com


CM

Кристоф Шиллер (Christoph Schiller) играет на спинете — это небольшой клавишный инструмент, разновидность клавесина. Вообще-то, Шиллер является пианистом, а к спинету пришёл после некоторых раздумий, связанных с размерами рояля и невозможностью иметь свой звук на всех площадках. Некоторое время потратив на миграцию приёмов игры внутри рояля, Шиллер освоился и заинтересовался современным импровом. У него уже выходил диск на Another Timbre: трио с Мишелем Донедой (Michel Doneda) и Йонасом Кохером (Jonas Kocher), являвшийся хорошим примером использования этого нового для большинства слушателей инструмента. Относительно новый (вышел в прошлом году) альбом в дуэте с трубачкой Биргит Ульхер (Birgit Ulher) ещё раз доказывает тот факт, что в современном импрове не столь важно, что ты используешь для извлечени звука; важно лишь то, как ты это делаешь.
Щипки по струнам, работа с электронным смычком, скрежет и так далее — это приёмы Шиллера. Шипящий саунд, слэп, звук о поверхность трубы, препарирование и тому подобное — это оснастка Ульхер. Они легко взаимодействуют друг с другом, углубляясь в не только в свои собственные звуки, но оставляя пространство для партнёра. Общий саунд дуэта подвижен и уследить за ним иногда представляется сложной задачей: неожиданные переходы и остановки не дадут заскучать. Частенько ловишь себя на мысли, что не улавливаешь звуки инструментов, а лишь кажется, что работают какие-то неизвестные миру механизмы, то стрекочущие на предельных мощностях, то размеренно выбивающих нерегулярный ритм. Таков и есть современный импров; музыка о музыке, звук о звуке. Ещё недавно музыканты индастриала приспосабливали звуки машин под музыкальные нужды. Нынче музыканты используют инструменты для того, чтобы произвести холодный отчуждённый звук. Во всех этих стремлениях есть одно важное качество: имровизаторы честны по отношению к себе и слушателю.
Эта искренность и подкупает, а мысли и идеи музыкантов обнажены и понятны. Шиллер и Ульхер не заумничают, не стараются задавить концептами или надуманными структурами. Их музыка органична и вместе с тем непредсказуема — а это свидетельствует о прямой наследственности от классического импрова, где можно всё, но нельзя ещё больше.
2012 Another Timbre CD
Илья Белоруков

07.03.2013 · Автор: Илья Белоруков · Обзоры, Релизы, cmmag.org


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