The Cortet is a project led by Dutch pianist Cor Fuhler. It focuses on what could be called misleading improvisation, i.e., free improv in which it is often impossible to determine who plays what and how such sounds are achieved. The line between acoustics and electronics is particularly thin. HHHH is culled from two concerts at the Bimhuis in February of 2003 and May of 2004, plus a studio session the day before the first live date. The Cortet's lineup is an impressive roster of cutting-edge improvisers and their coming together is at least equal to their individual worth. Each player here has pioneered new techniques: Fuhler's piano preparations extend beyond the usual objects laid out over the strings of the instrument to include mechanical devices and E-Bows; Rhodri Davies has not so much reinvented the harp as he has created a whole new instrument by close-miking it and playing it with an array of unorthodox implements; John Butcher's close-miked feedback, strangled-tonguing technique, and breath-based sounds make him the most innovative sax player since Evan Parker; and Thomas Lehn plays the EMS Synthi-A analog synthesizer in ways that are much closer to acoustic improvisation than anything related to the electronic realm. HHHH is full of intelligent, complex interaction. Despite some of these improvisers' preferences for very quiet settings, this album is actually quite dynamic, with plenty of loud, dense moments to balance out the sonic minutia of other passages. The opening five-minute piece, "HL," offers an excellent overview of the group's capacities, with an exquisite finale to boot. The 24-minute "TH" contains several highlights, including some menacing moments during which Lehn seems ready to escalate things without end. "CH" is the noisiest offering, the harp screeching (yes, screeching) uncomfortably before the quartet grinds to a halt. One of 2005's best free improv surprises and another classy production from Unsounds.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture