Astonishment: the title may sound pretentious but for once it is well deserved. Federico Ughi and Daniel Carter's CD surprises and charms. Both players are well accustomed to free improvising, but their take on the genre is a lot more atmospheric than one would expect. Carter alternates mainly between his trumpet and alto saxophone (a touch of flute or clarinet here and there too). His short, pensive trumpet lines recall Bill Dixon. His reed playing can be a little more gutsy, but things rarely escalate over the whisper. Ughi mainly uses soft mallets, tickling the cymbals, less playing the drums than letting them release their inner vibrations. He also sings long, delicate notes he samples live to accumulate. The resulting music is dreamy, cloudy, surprisingly quiet, and gentle for a free improv session. One thinks of Ben Monder's albums with Theo Bleckmann (the two voices also share similarities), some of Pauline Oliveros' pieces, or some strange, otherworldly world music -- Astonishment emits ritualistic, incantatory vibes. Singling out a particular track would not do justice to the other ones, since they all share a similar mood and seem interconnected in a unique musical vision. This CD could be used as an entry point for someone interested in free improvisation. Wrapped up in the music you hardly notice the absence of a script until you focus your attention on either player. To be listened to with eyes closed after a particularly stressful day. Strongly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture