Birgit Ulher


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This collaboration between trumpeter Birgit Ulher and percussionist Gino Robair is the perfect follow-up to the latter's 2004 album with John Butcher, New Oakland Burr. His partner is once again extremely unorthodox in her approach to her instrument. She uses a wide array of breathing sounds, staccato effects, strangled notes, and spit growls that roughly place her somewhere between Axel Dörner and Franz Hautzinger. Robair pushes further his exploration of percussion that is not quite percussive. In addition to rubbed cymbals and the occasional outburst of actual percussion sounds (as in "The Downy Monsters"), he introduces "energized surfaces" into his attire, which means that he controls analog synthesizer modules by moving his hands across or applying pressure to a surface -- a technique that is visually quite interesting and disorienting for the audience when witnessed in concert. On record, it sounds like Thomas Lehn getting busy on his old analog synths, although the result has a sharper kinetic feel. The pairing between Ulher's subnote sound world and Robair's oddly choreographed electronics produced ten quirky, puzzling, highly demanding free improvisations. One feels a palpable tension between the two, as if they didn't quite know the contents of each other's bag of tricks before entering Myles Boisen's studio on that first day of November 2004. Maybe that is why there is not a dull moment on Sputter: each track offers a new configuration of sounds and techniques.

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