CD Reviews

Wednesday 25th November

November 25, 2009

leimgruberLausanneStrangely, I’ve had a bit of a backlash against the endless stream of new CDs here the last few days and so spent much of this morning, as really horrendous winds and hailstorms whipped around the house, making it impossible to go out again, burning Cathnor CDrs and listening to Radio 4, (a spoken word channel, for those that don’t know it) Last night before I went to bed I worked my way through a couple of classic old Feldman CDs, the Hat Art editions of For John Cage and Patterns in a Chromatic Field. I get this way from time to time. A lot of CDs arrive here, some that I purchase, and many that have been kindly sent my way, and as regular readers will know I do spend a lot of time absorbing each new shiny silver disc that arrives. Every so often though I feel a little burnt out, and feel the need to not have to listen so intently, so inquisitively… So either the radio goes on and I don’t listen to music at all (I also have a pretty big collection of BBC radio comedy recordinsg here as well) or I put on something I know well, something I’m not about to write a review of. Feldman is often the choice, but Nono, Lachenmann or older improv are often dusted off and given a spin. I’m not sure why this happens, perhaps it is just a natural reaction to having to think so much, and perhaps as I have finally let my body relax this week my brain has wanted its turn as well. Who knows…

Anyway, this isn’t an excuse post for not listening to anything today. The pile of CDs isn’t going to get smaller on its own, so this evening I pulled the next one off of the pile, a disc on Günter Müller’s slightly less prolific than it used to be For4Ears label named Lausanne by the duo of Urs Leimgruber (Soprano and tenor sax) and Thomas Lehn (Analogue synth). I’ll admit to not being much of a fan of Leimgruber’s music in the past. His slightly-more-active-than-I’d-like style leant a little too heavily on jazz forms for my liking on the CDs I remember, so I approached this one with a little trepidation I must say. Lehn of course I like a lot, even in his busier modes, so hence my purchase of this disc.

The resulting CD, very nicely recorded in Lausanne in 2006 for Swiss radio contains five tracks that total a bit less than fifty minutes. The music actually has quite an unusual feel to it. On the most part it is actually quite spacious and simple. Leimgruber generally works with small fragments of bigger things, jerky little openings to melodies, squeaks, splutters and the occasional raucous shriek, He plays at a good volume throughout, but his sound is broken up into a stuttering string of bits and pieces rather than some stream of consciousness flow. While some of his sounds still leave me a little nonplussed (there isn’t much in the way of extended technique or variety beyond what we should expect from a sax) his placement of these bursts is generally well done, and he keeps his input to the CD to a level that he doesn’t extend beyond fifty percent of the sound we hear.

Still, it is Lehn’s contributions that interest me the most here, and his control of his instrument throughout is marvelous to focus on and follow. He restrains himself quite a bit right through the album, working in a similar way to Leimgruber by adding small bursts of colour and texture at little intervals, feeding them into and around the sax contributions. he works quickly though and is a fantastic listener, responding almost instantly to sudden changes, or often making dramatic dynamic shifts himself, one minute fluttering away in the background, the next exploding all over the place, only to come to a halt soon after.

Its not all blood and thunder stuff though by any means. There is a truly beautiful section during the second track (named Deux, bet you can’t guess what the others are called!) where Leimgruber just lets the faintest of whistles and purrs get past the restraint police and Lehn matches him with whispery grey textures. The track then slowly grows through a passage of tense murmurs and shudders that suggests it is going to rupture at several points but eventually does after seven or eight minutes of nervous calm, but only momentarily before drifting off on a thin sinewy tone from Lehn. Although much busier elsewhere there are several spots throughout the album where things return to this subtle, nuanced approach.

Lausanne is an odd album really, hard to categorise lazily, quite difficult to listen to as well. In places it feels as if Leimgruber is the protagonist, and Lehn refuses to be dragged along into a screeching match, but then elsewhere when the sax falls into quieter territory the synth seems to wrench things back into life. There are these huge crevasses in the music where suddenly you realise that things are only happening in the distance, and you relax for a moment before it all suddenly is there again and the senses are bombarded. The fourth track opens with another soft passage, complete with a couple of silences lasting ten seconds or so, and slowly things drift to the surface, blubbery warbles from Leimgruber, belching bursts from Lehn. You never quite know where you stand as a listener, or where things might go next, which can only really be a good thing.

Its also really great that I don’t know who to recommend this album to. Fans of all kinds of improvised music will find something to like here, if not all of it. I certainly enjoyed listening, and was surprised by just how much it captured my attention on a day when I didn’t really feel like listening to music at all.

A concert worth attending over in the West of England on Saturday night- Sarah Hughes and Patrick Farmer, head honchos of Compost and Height Incorporated are allowed back into the country (from their new hidden lair deep in Wales) to join Matt Davies, Daniel Jones and David Thomas realising scores by Michael Pisaro (alongside a film by Haptic’s Joseph Clayton Mills) and Manfred Werder. There will also be a debut live performance by Loris, the trio of Hughes, Jones and Farmer, whose excellent first album will appear shortly on the Another Timbre label. The very nice flyer for the gig is here.

I hope to get along, though I’m still not sure how… so will a certain Mr Reynell, head honcho of Another Timbre Incorporated. Just think, if I make it, and a sudden disastrous flood hits Bristol (always possible with the weather we’re getting right now!) and three of the UK’s labels could just get wiped out in one go… would anyone notice though?

If you can make it along to this gig please please do.

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