Birgit Ulher


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First, forget any preconception you may have on what trumpet and electronics should do together, especially if it involves any form of groove or beat. Second, also forget any preconception you may have about microsonic improvisation. Yes, Birgit Ulher mostly uses the trumpet as a breath resonator, but she incorporates the breathy drones, toneless clicks, and abstract gargles into a wider range of expression that also includes fast-paced atonal runs, grunts, belches, and many other sounds falling outside the scales -- there's even a clear, clean, uncompromising note in there once in a while. As for Ernst Thoma, his live electronics are neither minimalist nor maximalist. His sound palette evokes academic electroacoustics, especially in the plasticity of the material. His constructions interact vividly with Ulher, occasionally giving the impression that he is treating the sounds of the trumpet in real time. The music is exploratory, rarely staying in place, constantly looking for new textures, new approaches. This relentlessness is mostly triggered by Ulher -- her bag of tricks is bottomless. Even at the end of the 28-minute "Skyblue" she comes up with new sounds to challenge Thoma, who seems more willing to settle down. If Ulher's playing suggests at times the music of Axel Dörner and Franz Hautzinger (in their most abstract and difficult projects), her pairing with Thoma evokes more vividly the viola/computer duets of Charlotte Hug and Chantale Laplante (Brilliant Days, released almost simultaneously by another Swiss label, For 4 Ears). One finds a similar hunger for unheard sounds, eagerness to step away from the "microsonic" and "reductionist" tags, and high level of activity.

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