Followers of Andrea Neumann's work on inside piano (a small-scale piano frame prepared and equipped with several pick-ups plugged into a mixing desk) will find her taking a different approach on this collaboration with trumpeter Sabine Ercklentz. Both musicians make ample use of electronics on this album -- recorded at the renowned STEIM facilities in Amsterdam -- but that's not a first. The original side to this recording is found in the accentuated presence of rhythm and melody. Ercklentz and Neumann have not gone mainstream, far from it, but compared to the latter's previous projects (her duet with Annette Krebs being the most memorable), Oberflächenspannung (meaning "surface tension") sounds considerably less abstract. There is plenty of looping and multi-tracking in these five pieces. If the trumpet is recognizable in "Pünktlich" (or at least, the sound of breathing into a brass instrument), the inside piano is difficult to pinpoint; because instead of her usual brief, fragmented insertions, Neumann plays a uniform texture topped with looped (aka rhythmical) figures. "Der Kleine Farmer" begins on more familiar grounds, with Neumann pinching strings and transforming sonic envelopes in very precise motions, while Ercklentz explores breath-sounding techniques similar to Franz Hautzinger's groundbreaking solo CD Gomberg. But soon a music box is introduced and the piece takes a melodious turn, as what was first perceived as abstract improvisational elements suddenly coalesce to provide an accompaniment, with repeating cells appearing. "Pruh" is the most rhythmical piece of the album, a succession and combination of intentionally beat-driven figures and "accidentally" rhythmical loops, and also features reoccurring motifs. The title track, closing the set, reverts to abstract, noise-based improvisation, pairing breath-sound and valve-sound techniques from the trumpet with white noise from the inside piano pick-ups and steel wool applied to the strings, all in episodes of precise duration -- almost "movements" or variations of a composition. A surprising, fascinating release.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture