blasen


Sebastian Lexer - piano+ / Seymour Wright - sax

1. blase_37:18
2. blase_25:34

at13, another timbre, 2008

reviews:
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Dan Warburton, The Wire (March 2009)

“ ‘I feel a certain moral responsibility and need to work with the saxophone in a way people do not seem to at present,’ writes Seymour Wright, ‘to look beyond the scope of orthodoxy (even of current saxophone unorthodoxy) into the potential of the instrument, what it is and what it can be. This entails spending time with the instrument, as object, concept, history and imagined future.’ On these two extended duo improvisations, recorded in Trinity College, Greenwich in May last year, he’s joined by Sebastian Lexer on “piano+”, that plus referring to a self-designed Max/MSP application he uses for real-time sound processing. In similar vein, you could add both a plus and minus sign to “alto sax”, as in performance Wright frequently dismantles the instrument and spends as much time sucking and blowing its constituent lengths of tubing, not to mention exploring their resonances with extraneous devices including handheld electric fans.

But there’s nothing disjunct and abstruse about the result; Lexer’s processing - of his own sounds on track one and Wright’s on track two - is so subtle you often don’t notice it’s there, and the musicians’ patient exploration and analysis of their material is as mature and spacious as vintage AMM (both men have studied with Eddie Prevost and John Tilbury). But this certainly not Little League AMM either - Lexer has inherited Tilbury’s immaculate timing but paints with a palette of prepared piano colours all his own, and Wright’s daring deconstructions of syntax and instrument alike take the music into a dark, dangerous and hitherto unexplored territory. Blasen is convincing and exciting proof that there is still much to discover in the post-AMM lowercase world.”

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Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg (July 2009)

Duo piano (Lexer) et sax alto (Wright) investi dans une introspection sonore au ralenti avec une aide modérée de l’électronique (Lexer). Cette musique se développe avec détachement et une insistance à développer en profondeur un matériau sonore dans les recoins du piano et autour du bec et du bocal du saxophone. Un flottement des sons qui semblent faire partie intégrante de l’ambiance sonore du lieu. Les murmures qui s’échappent de la table de résonance après chaque frappe d’une corde du piano vers les minutes 17’ et 18’ de blase_37:18 sont du grand art. Vers la fin de cette pièce, la vibration de l’air semble infinie, induisant un relâchement total des sens et une concentration extrême. La seconde longue improvisation de Blasen, blase_25:34, décolle dans un serein mystère, proche du suspense. Le silence et le son vivent, s’éteignent et se pénètrent indiciblement. Quiconque fréquente la scène londonienne et le festival Freedom of the City a croisé ces deux activistes impliqués à fond dans les activités improvisées locales et dans son renouvellement. Ce sont aussi de proches collaborateurs d’Eddie Prévost et on les imaginerait volontiers en trio avec le percussionniste. Mais ils se suffisent amplement à eux-mêmes. En effet, ces deux musiciens discrets et ouverts ont réussi magistralement cette quête des sons initiée par les « réductionnistes » et autres adeptes du « lower – case », qui a parfois/souvent frôlé la tentative honorable. Exemplaire ! Faites dorénavant confiance au label another timbre de Simon Reynell : il nous réserve toujours de belles surprises.

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Blog by Doug on the 20 July 2009 (http://stainonsilence.blogspot.com/2009/07/thoughts-on-pacing-and-structure.html)

[...] blasen is an album on the Another Timbre label (same label that curated the Unnamed Music Festival I attended a month or two ago), featuring Sebastian Lexer on piano+ and Seymour Wright on alto saxophone.

I saw Seymour Wright live (performing with Martin Kuchen and Keith Rowe) at the Unnamed Music Festival a short while ago and was so completely enthralled by what he was doing (I had a clear line of sight) that I often found myself unfortunately distracted from the music at large. I have benefited from the experience, however, as listening to this record I do find that I can make a pretty good guess on occassion at how certain sounds are created... although that is still no more than 50% of the time. It also doesn't help that on the second of the two tracks on this album it is predominantly Wright's saxophone that is being manipulated by Lexer's electronics.

Sebastian Lexer's piano+ set up is an incredibly inspirational collaboration between acoustic piano and electronics. The electronically sustained harmonics/drones/crunching/crackling/booming creates a whole new soundworld from an instrument whose traditional soundworld is often difficult to break out of (also been listening to a lot of Xenakis recently... and his writing for piano in terms of techniques/sounds is fairly conventional compared to his writing for nearly all other instruments/ensembles).

The first improvisation on the cd, "blasen_37:18", is a very organically paced, brooding piece of music. Despite its beautiful sense of emotional structure, however, it is incredibly varied. The whole range of the piano is used, from growling low end rumbles and muted notes to electronically sustained, high pitched harmonics, to beautifully warm, mid-range chords that punctuate the music around the 26:45 mark. I do feel that this is also, perhaps, the reason why such a natural pacing of the improvisation was possible. In opening up the full range of the piano both acoustically and through electronic manipulation, Sebastian Lexer very early on opens up a deeply resonant space within which both he and Seymour Wright can then explore.

The second improvisaton on the cd, "blasen_25:34" (in which Wright's saxophone is predominantly affected by the electronics, not Lexer's piano), strikes me as being slightly more episodic initially. This time the space created, within which Wright and Lexer place their sounds and improvise, is at first achieved through intermittent use of some sort of drone or looped sound. For instance, within the first 4 or so minutes, gong-like harmonics and scrapes from Lexer (reminiscent of Takemitsu's Corona) and electronically processed/extended harmonics from Seymour Wright are dropped onto a predominantly 'blank canvas'. Then, at 4:20 a quiet (sub?)tone from Seymour Wright is (I assume) looped by Lexer's electronics to create a drone, over which Lexer's inside-piano work and I think further high pitched harmonics from Wright's saxophone are layered, while rattles that could come from either of the two musicians bubble underneath the drone. This drone disappears by around 6:40, leaving Lexer and Wright's sounds surrounded by digital silence. The drone returns again around the 12:30 mark, and has disappeared again by the 14 minute mark.

This second improvisation also has a delightfully strange "coda". The last couple of minutes contain strange high pitched electronic blips and whistling, reminiscent (at least for me) of the pianissimo glissandi at the end of Kottos and Embellie, Iannis Xenakis' pieces for solo cello and viola respectively.

And so coming back to the reasons for these thoughts... thinking about what constitutes engaging music from both the perspective of creating the music and listening to the music. The idea of structure and pacing, what those terms mean, and how they can work when executed well. blasen provides two examples of fascinating and excellently executed structure/pacing in an improvised setting. Each piece fluid, exploratory, and challenging yet cohesive and controlled. It is also interesting to consider the role each element of the duet plays in creating this music, and the role of electronic manipulation with regards to the methods used in opening up spaces to be explore by Lexer and Wright.

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Massimo Ricci, 27 May 2009 (http://temporaryfault.blogspot.com/2009/05/another-timbre-another-level.html)

"Piano and alto saxophone, in turn processed by a computer over the course of two lengthy improvisations. As stated in the liners, “sometimes the origins of the sounds are transparent, but often they are ambiguous”: this pretty much sums up the specific aesthetic of this album, a straight-faced investigation of the scarcely visible connections linking the insides of instruments belonging to completely diverse families. The players expertly move across a shady setting, in which candle-lit images of reciprocal correlation get misshapen by distorting mirrors; the preparations utilized by Lexer transform the strings of the piano in rudimentary generators that magnify an unstructured awareness, the notes now murkily resounding in inexpressibly indefinite agglomerates, now appearing as percussive calls to attention, the artist always in search of the perfect spot to minimize the recognisability factor. Wright is a percussively detached analyzer of the saxophone’s viscera and (generally) unused parts; this does not detract from the absolute musicality of his irregular differentiations, where “musicality” is a definition that should delineate an organism fusing the human initiator with a sound-producing apparatus. The importance of silence in this context is fundamental: the couple appears in fact especially interested in the maintenance of a quiet environment despite the abruptness of certain solutions, apparently born and instantly dead. The music transcends typical definitions to represent the consecutive modifications in the different states of matter: an enthralling combination of gaseous and grainy, scraping and popping emissions enriched by a reverberating uncertainty, the whole signifying an anomalous kind of seclusion. But it’s the Spartan intransience of this probing record that matters most, constituting its major point of attraction."

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Michael Rosenstein, 2009 (http://modisti.com/musicbox/?p=3050)

“During the later half of 2008, British reed player Seymour Wright got a modicum of well deserved attention with his self-produced solo release Seymour Wright of Derby as well as a duo release with Keith Rowe. This duo with pianist and electronic musician Sebastian Lexer should be added to the solo as recordings not to miss. Wright and Lexer are part of a nexus of musicians who have been participating in regular Friday workshops in London run by Eddie Prévost since the late ’90s, which gives an indication as to their aesthetic leanings. Wright is one of a handful of reed players who have managed to define a truly personal vocabulary out of extended reed technique. Zeroing in on the core sonic properties of the mechanical and acoustic components of his alto saxophone. He’s integrated every breath, burred reed vibration, keypad flutter, and hissed microtone into a unique improvisational language. Likewise, Lexer has delved into the strings, sounding board, and mechanical action of the piano to develop a quietly-nuanced approach to the instrument. He’s also a computer programmer and adds a system for real-time electronic processing to the session. What is so striking about this disk is the intense focus and subtlety of the interactions. Every sound is placed precisely into the overall context of the two expansive improvisations. There is a constant measure and balance of attack and decay; resonance and sympathetic overtone; metallic reverberation of strings and percussive snap of sax keys and pinched alto cries. As to the electronic processing, it is striking only in its lack of obvious presence. Lexer describes it as filling in the space between the traces of ideas and contributions of the performers. It is so fully integrated that the extended timbral control of the two musicians blend seamlessly with the minute electronic shadings of the processing. This one’s another stellar release from Another Timbre and yet another reason to check out Seymour Wright.”

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John Eyles, January 5 2009 (http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=31515)

This is an exciting release, and one which shows that Another Timbre is a savvy label, with its finger on the pulse. Pianist Sebastian Lexer and alto saxophonist Seymour Wright are two of the new generation of improvisers who have captivated London in recent years. Both are members of 9!, the ensemble that emerged from percussionist Eddie Prevost's regular improvisation workshops which have been running since 1999. Lexer and Wright have other AMM connections too: Lexer has had John Tilbury as a piano teacher (Lexer also participates in that forthcoming Tilbury album, providing electronics) while Wright has recorded live with guitarist Keith Rowe. Hence, the emergence of this new generation feels as if the baton is being passed forward to them.

Certainly, Lexer and Wright show every sign of having learnt from the very best. Both exhibit great restraint and empathy; it seems vitally important to both of them that each note is correctly placed and of the right duration and tone. Lexer often plays inside the piano and also uses computer technology to augment the sound of the instrument, producing sounds like conventional piano alongside those that could just be electronically produced. The greatest compliment to his playing is that he sounds like a pupil of Tilbury's.

Quoting Steve Lacy, Wright has spoken of his own saxophone technique as "grappling with the saxophone". He certainly does not display straightforward conventional technique, but instead problematises this area of his playing. The end results combine well with Lexer's playing, producing music that has its own satisfying logic and coherence, surely a test that we should expect any music to pass.

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A Spiral Cage, January 4 2009 (http://blog.spiralcage.com/?p=272)

... The second great prepared piano work on Another Timbre (after Endspace which made last years list) and before this years Blasen by Sebastian Lexer/Seymour Wright. I love the use of the piano in abstract music and Another Timbre is putting out some the best. Only John Tilbury (on the next Another Timbre release!) is bringing more interesting work to the ivories.

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Richard Pinnell, January 2 2009 (http://www.thewatchfulear.com/?p=479)

... Talking of Mr Reynell, his Another Timbre label certainly takes the non-existent award for label of the year. Throughout 2008 he released disc after disc of generally good to great music. Three that really stood out for me were the aforementioned Davies/Mukarji disc, (actually released very late in 2007) the Frederic Blondy / Thomas Lehn album Obdo (a great stormy expressionistic piano/synth workout) and Blasen, the really wonderful release by the London duo of pianist Sebastian Lexer and saxophonist Seymour Wright. The interplay between the musicians on Blasen is stunning, a superb example of great timing linked to exceptional choices and placement of sounds. Several of my favourite releases of 2008 are just damned good examples of excellent improvised music and Blasen is right up there amongst them.

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Brian Olewnick, December 13 2008 (http://olewnick.blogspot.com/)

The first of the two tracks here is one of the strongest things I've heard in while. Lexer has something of Tilbury in his playing--not the obvious (no redolence of Feldman, particularly) but a similar sense of tone, touch and placement, of managing to get the best of each in one keystroke, a rare enough achievement. Wright melds beautifully here; one often forgets entirely the instruments at hand and just experiences the music, which is remarkably cohesive and, for all its spareness, full and tactile. Beautiful work. The second piece is pretty good as well, a bit more diffuse, a little less gripping.

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Richard Pinnell, November 14 2008 (http://www.thewatchfulear.com/)

No end of CDs have arrived here of late, and if I’m honest I just haven’t spent enough time with any of them. One that did arrive yesterday and actually got played three times within a few hours of its arrival is blasen the duo disc on Another Timbre by Sebastian Lexer (piano+) and Seymour Wright (sax) Its too early for me to be writing at length on this lovely disc but I’ve heard enough to be able to heartily recommend it. I saw Lexer and Wright play a magnificent live set a week ago, tense, engaging, powerful stuff from these two highly talented long-term musical partners. The disc seems to be more of the same and is another winner from a fine label.

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Frans de Waard, November 28 2008 (http://www.tokafi.com/newsitems/vital-weekly-654/)

I may have a different connotation with the German word 'Blasen', and I'm not sure if Sebastian Lexer (piano+) and Seymour Wright (alto sax) know the sexual meaning of that. They both learned their skills at improvising with Eddie Prevost and they have released on Matchless, W.M.o.r. and TwoThousandAnd - although I don't seem to be remember any of the latter. Two pieces spanning little over an hour. Those are the basics of this release. Lexer knows how to make this piano sound like anything but a piano (although he sometimes does), but foremost he seems to be interested in the percussive aspects of the piano. Wright saxophone playing is also anything but. Feedback like sounds, pops and such like. I read the liner notes and it seems that 'piano+' stands for some extended piano and computer processing and in the second piece there is more computer processing, but then applied to the alto sax. I must admit I found it hard to understand what they were on about here. Its not easy music, and after the first piece, which lasted thirty-seven minutes, I was pretty tired, and I still had twenty-five to go. I don't think this is a disc one should play in one go, but take a piece, listen and then play something else. Otherwise its all a bit too much. Great, yet extensive dish.