Burkhard Beins/Mazen Kerbaj/Michael Vorfeld

Sawt Out
Herbal Records Concrete Disc 1802

As unusually constituted instrumentally as the timbres produced by the participants are unprecedented, Sawt Out should be listened to the same way as satellite photos from a distant planet are observed. Achievement lies in itemizing contours of a shifting landscape within the rigors of sonic achievement. Perceptive, but without resolution, the program also predicts further journeys.

Berlin-based, the trio consists of German percussionists Burkhard Beins and Michael Vorfeld plus Lebanese trumpeter/graphic novelist Mazen Kerbaj. Beins, who has collaborated with improvisers like Bertrand Denzler and Chris Abrahams, takes advantage of all the textures that can be sourced from an expended percussion kit. Vorfeld, whose experimental work leans towards contemporary notated music, plays an instrument which has strings as well as percussion. In his elaborations, the trumpeter’s brass formula has as little to do with conventional Jazz as his drawings do to the Peanuts comic strip. Frequently during the four tracks here, instrumental identification is impossible. A tone or mode could as easily come from brass as rhythm or strings. Furthermore Kerbaj’s cover drawing scrunches together hundreds of images that are both fanciful and human. And these cramped images also reflect the crammed sounds on the CD.

Sawt Out’s four selections are very much of a piece. If the final “Sore Toad” is the briefest than it’s also the most pressurized and highest pitched. It evolves from choked brass variations, ratcheting buzzes, gongs and bass drum plops to gnarring tones complete with a drum roll. In contrast the introductory “How Worried Are We” is the longest improvisation, creating every sort of resolution and reverb before it ends with quiet disassociated pings. Along the way metallic inner brass buzzes chafe against cymbal scrapes, drum bops and pitter-patter. Squirming amoeba-like in the exposition, the tune evolves with watery trumpet squeezes and tones from struck tuned glass, taut string thwacks and gentling drum top brushing. Altogether a consistent if irregular rhythm is established that deepens the connective sounds with lower pitches as it cements the narrative. Achievements elsewhere include a sequence in which it appears as if the timbres an entire electronics factory are accelerating in pitch and velocity simultaneously and another in which the exposition relates to harshness, with every sort of Mylar, metal, wood, catgut and tempered steel scratched and rubbed for maximum sonic irritation.

No relaxed or smooth program, this CD’s fascination lies in acceptance of what it is and how textures are attained.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. How Worried Are We? 2. Solid Water 3. Crossfeed 4. Sore Toad

Personnel: Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet); Burkhard Beins and Michael Vorfeld (percussion)