Different Worlds

2° Étage
Grey Matter

2° Étage are Christine Eodrascka, Jean Luc Cappozza, Gerry Hemingway, respectively playing piano, trumpet & bugle, and percussion. I know Hemingway principally from his work with Anthony Braxton, and it is his careful and lucid percussion work here which most holds my attention, as all too often the improvised music here lurches into the sustained squalls or held drones and slow moving skitters of music one has come to associate with much improvised jazz.

The CD booklet notes compares them not only to storytellers, painters and poets, but also ‘magicians of the spontaneous’ who ‘play together as children play together’. It also suggests their ‘imaginary world’ is made from ‘sounds born of pipes, shells, skins, rubber, wood, bells, balls, adhesive tape, clothespins…’ which is slightly disingenuous: as far as I can hear or ascertain this trio are not players of found objects; they stick to their instruments.

I want to like Grey Matter more than I do, but it is too ordinary, too much like a hundred other improvised recordings. There are trills and held chords, rumbles from the piano; squawks and honks, flurries of notes from the trumpet; and beneath it all the patter, bump and knock of scitter-scatter percussion. It’s playful, careful & considered, and pretty ordinary; we’ve visited this place too many times before.


Auris + Gino

Gino Robair has also played with Braxton, and is a busy, noisy drummer and percussionist, here guesting with the trio Auris. All four players are credited with electronics in addition to their instruments, although I have no idea what Eric Leonardson’s ‘springboard’ is! [1. See Eric Leonardson’s site.]

The track titles appear to be cryptic letters, but after listening and reconsidering I reckon they stand for either the group [A] or individuals [C = Christopher Preissing; E = Eric Leonardson; G = Gino Robair, etc.] and who they are playing with. So ‘E + G’ is Eric Leonardson in duet with Gino Robair. There’s a suggestion that Robair has been invited along as a newcomer to ‘alter the landscape’, but to these ears he fits right in.

Electronics give an unworldly edge to all of these tracks: this really is a new world, one made with howls, textures, honks, drones and alien textures, where it is rare to be able to attach an instrument’s name to the sounds being produced. (Drums, at times, being the one exception). The music is hesitant yet aggressive, full of rhythmic pulses and urgent morse-like messages, metallic sustain and high pitched tones. An alien landscape if one wants to pursue the landscape metaphor, a world sculpted with noise and sound, a conversation between the organic and it’s treated digital self. This music is both exciting and challenging.


Reinhold Friedl / Franck Vigroux

Tobel is subtitled as ‘an encounter between two worlds’, a meeting of a pianist and a musician who uses electronics, in a single 36 minute piece. To these ears it’s a fairly minimal drone work, reminiscent at times of music by Main/Robert Hampson or Cezary Gapik. A generated hum underpins the first 7 minutes, only interrupted by occasional other pitches and distant echoes, but then there is a whoosh like a train arriving and the music becomes restless, with a twitching pulse and what sounds like wind chimes being bullied by a small child. This pulsating noise continues and deepens for several more minutes until with another whoosh the quiet returns, in the form of a gentle seasick waveform.

Tangerine Dream (in their early days) might be a frame of reference here. Ice cold feedback and electronics slowly hover and intrude, before a long slow mutate finds the music once again pulsating and grumbling towards another accumulation of noise. The expected epiphanic train crash doesn’t happen, instead the music withdraws again, becomes a corrupted morse message loop, an industrial hum, a communication breakdown, a haven for lost sounds. Gradually the music unwinds, simplifies, reduces itself once again to drones and twitters of sound – almost recognisable as piano strings, some slow rises and falls of pulsating before the music stutters out, despite threatening occasional noisestorms as it does.

It’s wonderful stuff, occasionally let down by the over-use of a tone to hang things on or against, or overlong build ups, but with it’s attention to detail and focussed palette of sounds it keeps the listener intrigued and interested, transported even.