The core of the project Sculpted Sound consists of vocalist Magda Vogel interpreting selected sound poems over music composed by pianist John Wolf Brennan. Active since mid-2000, the group has known a few lineups. For this recording from January 2001 (released almost four years later), Sculpted Sound consisted of Vogel, Brennan, violist Charlotte Hug, and drummer Christian Wolfarth (a regular Brennan collaborator in the group Momentum). Part avant-garde art songs, part experimental structured improvisations, Brennan's pieces feature his typical alliance between audacity and elegance. They offer unusual sounds and striking developments, but also a number of endearing melodies and lovely arrangements. The selected poems are from the likes of Ernst Jandl, Hans Arp, André Thomkins, and Eugen Gomringer, all pillars of the sound poetry current, born out of Dada in the early 20th century and focused ever since on the poetry of sound (as opposed to the poetry of meaning). Vogel is a gripping vocalist with a soft, alluring tone and a commanding range of extended techniques. She also has a certain classical grace that should catch the attention of fans of Lauren Newton. Hug's unique viola techniques (see her solo CD Neuland) build bridges between the voice and the instruments, especially in the wonderful "Worte Sind Schatten." Other highlights include the playful "Alpha Bet," the complex "Permanenterformweg," and Brennan's own "Fraktional-hymne." Two instrumental pieces are interspersed in the "main body" of the album. There are also two bonus tracks taken from a concert at Casino Luzern, where Sculpted Sound (then also including euphonium player Shirley Anne Hofmann) met sound poet Eugen Gomringer, heard reciting his "Schwiizer." Andreas Brüll contributes a rather dispensable remixed version of "Alpha Bet" to conclude the album. Brennan is best known for his work in instrumental avant-garde jazz groups and free improvisation contexts. This foray into art song territory turns out to be very convincing and deserves a heartfelt recommendation.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture