Thomas Olbrechts

Seminal Records #054

Joachim Zoepf


Nurnichtnur 118 06 13S

Michaël Attias

èchos la nuit

Out Of Your Head OOYH003

Challenging as they are, solo reed sessions while not commonplace are certainly not as rare as they were when sound explorers like Steve Lacy and Anthony Braxton pioneered the genre about a half century ago. Seeking to separate themselves from others though, two of the three reedists here affect further provocation in terms of adding secondary voices. On èchos la nuit American also saxophonist Michaël Attias also improvises on piano in tandem or in contrast to his reed playing. Dividing his contributions, German Joachim Zoepf adds computer interface to his woodwind explorations on Geschmacksarbeit: some with soprano saxophone and some with bass clarinet. Belgian alto saxophonist Thomas Olbrechts’ Inertia is given over to 10 exercises in unadorned reed research, but he does include one trio track for variety.

Having worked with the likes of Hans Tammen and Paul Hubweber among others, Kohl-based Zoepf doesn’t depend on electronics, but uses the processing as further expansions of his reed multiphonics. On “langwellen No. 7” for instance, his slurring bass clarinet timbres seem to exist as two separate instruments as one works up the scale, and the other in the opposite direction. Following a vibration extension to euphonious harmonies, the finale is an altissimo screech. From that point on the alternating saxophone or clarinet tracks feature strategies moves from breathy explorations of the body tube that sometimes produce growls and lowing vibrations that are as much renal and reactive. At the same time, dissected whistles and thinner timbres which shake rhythmically when isolated do so in atom-sized bites. Stretched granular synthesis sometimes refers to the song form though, while computer whooshes and throbs challenge or extend the tones. For pure atonality, there’s a track like “langwellen No. 3” where a thick undercurrent of widening bass clarinet tones is quickly superseded by winnowing reed breaths and twisted spetrofluctuation, ending with diffuse tones. The most ambitious track however is “kurzwellen No. 4.” Displaying a masticated soprano sax tone, Zoepf sets up reed story telling which continues regardless as computer generated recordings of flanged voices and unidentified peeps and peals come in-and-out of aural focus. As the saxophone reaches a top-of-range climax, interruptions from a spirituals-singing choir and later orchestrated dance hall beats arise in counterpoint.

There’s nothing this spectacular that takes place during Inertia’s 11 tracks. In fact it could be termed old-school solo reed playing. Unless some miscellaneous watery blows and stutters that are evident alongside buzzes and pitch variations on the title track are reproduced mechanically, no plugged in devices are evident on the session. Instead Olbrechts is most concerned with how many novels and vibrating timbres can extract from his alto saxophone, with diaphragm-pitch-pressure, sneaking in-and-out of false registers, emphasized stretched air pockets plus reverberations of all sorts are put into play. Some tracks such as “Conclusion centrifugal” contain mere breaths distantly echoing into staccato key percussion. Some others, like “Stackedmemory II (until 0 appears) 1” frame split tones mid-way between “Reveille” and a grumble, widening into dissonance. Other pieces show off his full range. “Inertia I” for example corrals extended fluttering tonguing and strained vibrations to split into two separate tones distinguished by lip and mouth pressure. With one puffing to a whine and the other alternating between canine-like yelps and feline-like yowls, the culmination is repeatedly whooshed high-pitched trills and cries. Other tracks like the oddly titled “//// ******” work with extended pitch variations and nearly endless puffs that vibrate across the reed as pressure is applied. While “Canon”, is anything but, mixing brittle air variations and tongue percussion that resembles string-bass plucks; it becomes a nearly impenetrable mass of hollow burbles and reed mastication.

More conventional of these discs is èchos la nuit. While Attias breaks up his alto saxophone musings with piano forays, a sameness of mood and tempo predominates. Considering that Attias is a young veteran who has played on three continents and with everyone from Oliver Lake to Anthony Braxton, this musical neo-liberalism seems a bit puzzling. This strategy is elaborated from the first track, “Echoes I: Mauve” onwards, with, on that track, a horizontal piano line preceding an exposition that arises from a flurry of reed vibrations and is completed with slides and quivers. Throughout the sometimes narrow reed interface is altered from moderato, even reaching some early Braxton-like-dissonant tones, but letting the instrument’s natural melancholy predominate as other sequences seem to almost float away. Those deviations from the sentimental and ethereal harmonies stand out for audacity, among other attributes. For instance “Rue Oberkampf” is a series of sweet Lee Konitz-styled repeated riffs, with just enough honks to make the gentle timbres stand out that much more. “Fenix III” is set up with a blanket of high-pitched piano key clips that give way to sweeping reed puffs and modulations, cumulating in high-pitched whistles, until calming keyboard patterns works the theme back to mid-range. Probably the most profound elaboration of this game plan occurs on the sardonically titled “Wrong Notes”. As the aural afterimage of the initial piano strategy comes into focus, the thinking that goes into creating each phrase can almost be seen. Cunningly, even as the reed upsurge becomes more evident, it’s harmonized with the painstakingly constructed keyboard voicing in such a way that a logical return to the head is warranted.

No longer a rite of passage but merely one demonstration of a reedist’s skill is a solo session. So each of these discs can be appreciated for what they offer. But for some the idea of exploratory experimentation may be more tempting than other forms.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Gesch: 1. kurzwellen No. 1 II. langwellen No. 7 III. kurzwellen No. 2 IV. langwellen No. 6 V. kurzwellen No. 3 VI. langwellen No. 5 VII. kurzwellen No. 4 VIII. langwellen No. 4 IX. kurzwellen No. 5 X. langwellen No. 3 XI. kurzwellen No. 6 XII. langwellen No. 2 XIII. kurzwellen No. 7 XIV. langwellen No. 1 2'32''

Personnel: Gesch; Joachim Zoepf (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and computer interface)

Track Listing: Inertia: 1. Intro 2. Stackedmemory I (limen) 2. Stackedmemory II (centrifugal) 3. Inertia 4. Inertia II 5. //// ****** 6. Canon 7. Inertia I 8. Argumentation 9. Stackedmemory II (until 0 appears) 10. Stackedmemory (4 D Mirror) 11. Conclusion centrifugal

Personnel: Inertia: Thomas Olbrechts (alto saxophone) plus on * add: Joachim Devillé (flugelhorn, FX) and Stefan Prins (live-electronics)

Track Listing: Echoes: 1. Echoes I: Mauve 2. Trinité 3. Grass 4. Autumn I 5. Autumn II 6. Fenix III 7. Circles 8. Rue Oberkampf 9. Wrong Notes 10. Song for the Middle Pedal* 11. Sea in the Dark 12. Echos II: Night.

Personnel: Echoes: Michaël Attias (alto saxophone and piano)