Christine Abdelnour, Bonnie Jones, Andrea Neumann – AS:ISSeptember 20, 2012
This new release on the Olof Bright label includes some interesting liner notes by Thomas Milroth that point out how improvised music has changed over recent years as the new connections offered by the internet and by easier global travel have opened up the potential for musicians split apart geographically to connect and collaborate. He makes the very interesting observation that the music is changing as localised styles of playing have begun to dissolve as visitors from other scenes are appearing more frequently than before. Milroth suggests that where certain scenes could once have been identified by a recogniseable local style as musicians all played together in a communally developed manner, so the rapid globalisation of the music has brought a sense of individual voices coming together into the music much more. So collaborations today are often more collisions of different approaches more than mutually developed seamless collaborations. He cites this new album as a good example, and its hard to disagree, with all three musicians coming together from separate scenes to record together at the q.O2 space in Brussels, Neumann and her inside piano frame having been a key part in the Berlin scene for many years, Jones having worked with her quite frequently in recent years but having developed her fractious electronics approach amongst the noisier Baltimore and Seoul scenes, and Abdelnour slowly shifting her saxophone sound through various degrees of increased abstraction in Beirut and Paris. The end result then all works together well, but it works because it continually pushes and wrestles at itself internally, with quite different sounds slammed up against each other, often quite abruptly, giving all of the seven tracks here a certain vibrancy as the separate sonic ingredients bubble and fizz against one another rather than dissolve together.
Neumann and Jones only quite recently released a duo album on the Erstwhile label, which is a fine outing in itself, but while that CD had a feeling of careful construction and arrangement about it, AS:IS, with the additional of Abdelnour’s saxophone feels like a more immediate and alive album. Perhaps it is the more human feeling sound of the sax, even though it is pushed into little more than dry hisses, buzzing tones and sloppy tongue clicks here that adds something more familiar to connect with that helps give the album more of a fresh feeling, but the tracks here feel thoroughly improvised and so really vibrant. The combination of the acoustic with the purely electronic, with Neumann’s miked up piano insides falling somewhere in between tells some of the story, but also the more richly fluid style of Abdelnour’s playing adds a nice contrast to the abrupt, often harsh fragments of Jones and the warmth of Neumann’s expertly controlled sounds. The stark contrasts in both sonic palette and independently developed stylistic tendencies bring Milroth’s sensation of a global cauldron to the music and make for a finely balanced, continually shifting album. There are surprises in there; the use of field recordings in selected places come unexpectedly, tracks often end suddenly when you don’t expect them to, and sudden right angles in individual tracks are commonplace, and this all adds to the sensation of energy and vitality in the music. Good stuff indeed then, bright, thoroughly modern improvisation that keeps you on your toes.