1001 Sabine Ercklentz | Andrea Neumann "LAlienation"

1 BIALETTI 8'35"
3 ORTLAUT 10'54"
6 LALIENATION [Mpeg4] 8'46"

Promo clip

Audio CD extra, 6 panels digipak with 16 pages booklet 
including essay by Marion Saxer on music on Ercklentz / Neumann. Translated by William Wheeler.
50 minutes+
Release date: April 2010
12 Euros + shipping order

Line Note (German. English version come with the cd booklet)
Mediengemische. Sabine Ercklentz und Andrea Neumann spielen mit der Technik

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Goh Lee Kwang | Tim Blechmann "DRONE"

Touching Extreme
Aside from the funny cover (partly explicated by a mini-movie contained in the disc), 2010’s LAlienation is a good album by Sabine Ercklentz and Andrea Neumann, who integrate the origin of their instruments (trumpet and a specially designed amplified piano frame) with cunningly sharp electronics. These procedures yield results that sound organically coalesced and entirely acceptable both rhythmically and compositionally. The artists pay attention to every single constituent of the electroacoustic ambit, at times giving birth to pulsing patterns emerging from peculiar superimpositions of disparate timbral specimens (including an espresso Bialetti machine, which gives the title to the first track). Mostly fending off the trivial wheezing-in-tube factor, Ercklentz privileges pop-fizz-and-clatter minute dynamism, which – magnified and duplicated in chains of changing shapes, or just enhanced by equalization – produce textures in which rich-sounding rough edges are coupled with a general sense of weightlessness (in this case, a positive trait). Neumann appears to be the one supplying the larger chunks of material for the lower region of the spectrum, besides adding welcome intrusions of springing metal and humming ominousness, but the emissions are so well jumbled that it is often infeasible – and ultimately futile – to recognize who does what. This interesting concoction of deceptively elemental structures and composite resonances releases bewitching scents little by little, and is a pleasure to listen to.
- Massimo Ricci -

Vital Weekly
Quite a deceiving cover here which looks like the poster of a b-movie. Yet the music is nothing like that. Sabine Ercklentz plays trumpet and electronics and Andrea Neumann plays inside piano and mixing desk. Especially music by the latter we came across in the field of improvisation, and this disc is surely another fine work in that direction. But its also an expansion of their territory. Somewhere in the second piece, the title piece there is all of a sudden a rhythm coming in, which must be like heresy in the world of improvisation. The whole work is pretty vibrant with the trumpet being the sole fighter on the side of all things acoustic. It seems to me that the electronics play the main role here. Things are punched in and out and adds a certain roughness to the recording. Its a wild affair this one, with that trumpet in the middle of that battle of electronics, which are played as a collage like patterns. Sometimes Neumann plays rhythms on her piano, and even there is a bit of spoken word on 'Twin Quartet'. An excellent, most daring release of improvised music. Also included is a film for the title track, which is hard to believe - but a b-movie in itself. A most confusing ending to a great CD.
- Frans De Waard -

Paris Transatlantic
In case you're wondering whether there's an apostrophe missing between the L and the A, the album cover, with the title in huge white letters on the hillside, makes it clear. Los Angeles meets alien meets nation, I suppose. The cover also shows our two protagonists, trumpeter Ercklentz and inside pianist Neumann, with garlands of – are those onions? - round their necks, decked out in what look like swimsuits and made up to look like Virgil Tracy from Thunderbirds. Not so much Lalienation as Supermarionation, if you like. An eight-minute short film included on the disc as an mpeg video file tells the story of the cover, showing our intrepid lassies emerging from the Pacific (maybe that's seaweed then, not onions) crossing the City of the Angels and setting up the photo shoot. It's fun, and certainly original, but the disc works perfectly well without it. Marion Saxer's nine-page accompanying essay in the booklet is a good read, too, but the music needs no explanation. In addition to their instruments of choice, neither of which sound much like a trumpet or a piano (but you're all hip to "extended techniques" now), Ercklentz and Neumann make extensive use of electronics, not only to incorporate local found sounds – the gurgle of an espresso percolator in "Bialetti" is immediately recognisable – but to transform and sequence them into what are at times remarkably accessible compositions, both harmonically and rhythmically. Yes, you can even tap your feet to "Twin Quartet" and almost hum along with parts of the title track. That said, you're not likely to hear this on your local Top 40 station in the near future, but Ercklentz and Neumann have thoroughly mastered the lingua franca of contemporary improvised music, with its puffs, fizzes, twangs and scrapes, and demonstrate convincingly that it can and should, given the right encouragement, speak to a wider public than it attracts at the moment. Hell, you might even find someone popping it into their car stereo in L.A. one day.
- Dan Warburton -

The Watchful Ear
So the CD in question tonight is Lalienation, the relatively recent duo release by Berlin musicians Sabine Ercklentz (trumpet and electronics) and Andrea Neumann (inside piano and electronics) on the Concrete offshoot of the Herbal International label. Before writing anything about the music mention must be made of the sleeve design for this one, which really stands out as something very different for an improv release. The two musicians stand, weirdly made up so as to look like wooden figures straight out of a Gerry Anderson animation, in front of the Hollywood sign, though the letters have been altered to read LALIENATION. What all of this means I really have very little idea, but it is certainly a striking and very original sleeve design, not what we might expect, which in places is also what we may think about the music on the CD.

I think I first heard these recordings in a demo state a couple of years ago. When I first put this CD into the player a week or so back I had forgotten about this, but the music on the CD is very distinct, primarily because of the use of rhythm, mainly on the album’s title track, which is the second piece here. Before this, the disc opens with a very nice study of short textures and juxtaposed electronic and acoustic sounds called Bialetti. the lengthy sleeve notes (another break from the norm here) reveal some of the sounds we hear to be a recording of a coffee machine (perhaps the track title refers tot he machine’s brand name) burbling away, something I did not notice two years ago, and would probably not have realised without the sleeve note pointer now, though once you know the sounds do become clear. This opening piece is maybe my favourite on the album, sounding very “present” and vibrant in some way. Lalienation then, the second piece begins in a similar area but then breaks up into a kind of disjointed, angular rhythm made up from very short bursts of sound, presumably processed and sequenced in some way, though as the music seems to be entirely improvised it could be that much of this is done manually.

I’m really torn about how I feel about this track. As the rhythmic elements continue and Ercklentz begins to play short spiky trumpet parts over them it all seems very simple and obvious, and yet, it isn’t obvious at all that these musicians should work this way, that they should produce music with this oddly jagged groove to it. Rhythms, at least not of this kind are something of a no-go area in this type of improvised music, and while the actual sounds here and how they are used do not feel at all comfortable to me perhaps that’s the point, we listeners maybe aren’t meant to feel safely in our comfort zones. For sure I have found myself fighting a natural urge to dislike the rhythmic element to the music, but at the end of the day the music challenges me here, and that can never be a bad thing.

Ortlaut, the third track again drifts through sections of instantly collaged abstraction that also includes some kind of indoor field recording in the mix before cracking up into tiny fragments that fly past, coming close to the clear pulse of the second track, but ending up a little too fast and oblique in nature to become anything you could tap your foot to. The sleeve notes suggest the music on this piece is directly influenced by technology, and that originally the work was presented on many different kinds of speaker, a factor that apparently cannot be replicated on a single CD. Indeed I am reminded of digital technology by this piece, the slow loading of websites or downloads, gradually speeding up until just a blur as they come to their end.

Passer par tout, the fourth piece here has a far more open, organic feel to it, but it appears to actually be a quite tightly preconceived conceptual work, with four pre-recorded sounds slowly faded into the music, with the musicians seemingly then taking these as background colour for the musicians to play into, possibly in a vaguely composed manner, possibly not, as the liner notes hint in this direction without really being clear. There is a feeling of a little more space and calm in this track, with distant whistles and murky background clouds providing much of the interest, with additionally added elements few and far between. The disc’s audio tracks then end with Twin Quartet, another conceptual piece that apparently “deals with expectations of an audience who watches an event streamed live, though the live stream is actually a preproduced video”. It seems that a live audience were duped into thinking they would be watching a live stream of an improvisation, when in fact they were watching a pre-recorded film. Exactly how this information can be applied to the act of listening to the audio sound on this CD I am not sure. With the exception of a slightly different recording colouration (this piece was made more than a year after the others) it just sounds like another track here, again slipping into peculiar rhythms, with the sparse trumpet almost duetting with field recordings of spoken word broadcasts also appearing here and there.

Picture 1Then there is also a film included on the disc, which turns out to be a kind of promo video for the album’s title track, a somewhat peculiar one at that. Shot in Los Angeles, the video begins with a woman getting into her car and choosing the LAlienation CD to play on the stereo. the film then cuts to a shot of the seashore, where, as the music begins, Ercklentz and Neumann, dressed as they appear on the CD sleeve walk out of the water and then set about wandering around LA, where, dressed in their alien garb they are looked at oddly by the locals. They try and flag down a car, with little luck, before chancing across the woman who began the film, who, while on th phone leaves her car with the keys in it. The strange Ercklentz and Neumann figures then take the car and drive to the Hollywood sign, where they climb up, dragging a camera tripod with them, and take the photo that appears on the front of the CD.

I would imagine the film simply depicts the sense of not belonging that the two musicians felt in the LA culture at some point, positioning them as alien to the glamour and glitz of the city, and yet still following the path of all tourists to the Hollywood sign, not really knowing why they would be doing so. The addition of the film here doesn’t necessarily add anything to the music, but its a nice, very original and highly ambitious touch. There is simply nothing else like this out there right now. For certain, the inclusion of a video won’t open up the music to any wider audience, so I suspect it has been added as a wry and certainly very humorous glance at the feeling of alienation that musicians in this area of music feel when considering the bigger musical picture. Certainly this is an interesting release that deserves more attention than I have seen it get so far. There is much to discuss here.
- Richard Pinnell -

Just Outside
Helluva cover. The first two letters are capitalized on the Herbal site which, combined with the clear visual reference of the hillside sign and the less clear nod to...well, something, maybe Grade D-movies, one might have expected some commentary on entertainment culture but, if so, it's pretty oblique. Fine by me, as these six trumpet/inside piano duets are more than strong enough to stand on their own. The liner notes by Marion Saxer foreground notions of texture and that's certainly one of the standout qualities here--much of the music simply sounds gorgeous, the timbres of the brass and excited piano wire melding beautifully. It's also, in part, far more approachable than one would suspect, pieces like "Bialetti" having a firm rhythmic base, Ercklentz' horn echoing Bowie's bluesy romanticism. There are beats in play elsewhere, never too intrusive, always tempered with digressions into arrhythmia (!) and a good bit of quasi-melodic content. But the rigor with which the music is assembled precludes any too-easy digestion. Rather, the pair strikes a juicy, slightly itchy balance between the accessible and abstract, amply rewarding both aspects. The disc includes an MPEG4 file which, in my ignorance of all things ipodistic, I was unable to open. Don't let that dissuade you, though--a fine recording.
- Brian Olewnick -

Il y a trois ans, Sabine Ercklentz (trompette & électronique) et Andrea Neumann (inside piano & table de mixage) publiaient Lalienation, un disque qui a fait parlé de lui à ce moment. Car les deux musiciennes proposaient d'une part un disque d'eai accompli, mais non contentes d'arriver au sommet, elles parvenaient en plus à prendre une toute autre direction et à faire un disque plus accessible que les productions habituelles d'improvisation électroacoustique.

Une formule d'eai accomplie tant dans la pratique que dans le dispositif utilisé. Chacune des musiciennes utilise un instrument et l'utilise en tant qu'instrument aussi bien qu'en tant que source sonore abstraite. Sur ces instruments sont placés des micros piezzos reliés soit à des pédales d'effets et des filtres (pour Ercklentz), soit à une table de mixage en larsen (Andrea Neumann). Et durant, ces improvisations (qui ne sont pas tant improvisées que ça d'ailleurs), les textures peuvent aussi bien être instrumentales, complètement électroniques et abstraites, ou abstraites et acoustiques (par le biais de nombreuses préparations sur le piano et d'une foule de techniques étendues à la trompette). Tout se mélange à certains moments, on ne sait plus qui fait quoi, tandis qu'à d'autres moments, la trompette ressort clairement, ou le piano, ou alors on ne sait plus si les instruments sont modifiés par l'électronique ou par les préparations et techniques étendues. Ercklentz & Neumann utilisent le dispositif avec un équilibre harmonieux entre le jeu purement instrumental, l'instrumentation modifiée de manière acoustique, les instruments amplifiés et modifiés par l'électricité, et l'électronique pure. Impossible de qualifier cette musique d'instrumentale, ou d'électronique, tant le dispositif et les techniques sont équilibrés - et c'est en cela que ce disque est un des rares sommets de l'eai je trouve.

Et l'autre aspect excellent de ce disque relève plutôt du comportement et du caractère des musiciennes face à l'approche électroacoustique. Ercklentz et Neumann ne se plongent dans une exploration austère, abstraite et chiante du son, ni dans un jeu de réactivité suractif et surexcité qui en rajoute à chaque seconde. Les deux musiciennes paraissent avoir pris beaucoup de recul face à ces clichés de l'improvisation, et elles adoptent une disposition plus légère et humoristique face à la musique. Oui, elles explorent parfois les textures électroacoustiques de manière très sérieuse et calme, où l'interaction entre elles-mêmes et leur dispositif ; mais ça ne les empêche pas non plus à de nombreuses reprises de produire des motifs qui groovent, des patterns électro, de détourner les phrasés du jazz ou de jouer avec des glissandi électroniques niais. Neumann & Ercklentz adoptent une position à contre-courant de l'eai, une position de recul et de légèreté face au réductionnisme berlinois qu'elles connaissent (toutes les deux vivaient à Berlin à ce moment je crois), face à l'improvisation libre réactive et énergique, tout en produisant une musique extrêmement talentueuse, profonde, unique et surtout très créative et innovatrice. J'aimerais en effet entendre beaucoup plus de trucs comme ça dans l'improvisation libre et électroacoustique.

Une musique fraîche, innovante, drôle, extrêmement virtuose, talentueuse et précise. Neumann & Ercklentz gère leur dispositif qui allie électronique et instruments avec un équilibre saisissant, puis elles en explorent les propriétés les abstraites (de grains, de textures) et les plus inattendues (avec les passages les plus groove) - le tout sans renier l'humour et la joie propre au partage et à la collaboration.
- Julien Héraud -

Monsieur Delire
Sabine Ercklentz (trompette, électroniques) et Andrea Neumann (cadre de piano, électroniques) travaillent ensemble depuis un bout de temps, dans divers projets, mais leur duo est un lieu de création particulier, où elles se permettent un peu de tout. LAlienation (on aurait envie d’y mettre une apostrophe, oui, sauf que la pochette faisant allusion aux grosses lettres blanches du “Hollywood”, on comprend qu’il s’agit d’un jeu de mots entre Los Angeles et alienation) – LAlienation, donc, couvre une palette large, entre l’impro libre microsonique, le field recording et le post-jazz. Voilà un disque stimulant (par les techniques utilisées, mais aussi les juxtapositions), aguichant (on y trouve de jolies mélodies) et varié (chacune des cinq pièces propose un cadre, des outils et une approche différents). Et c’est la pochette la plus saisissante à m’être passée entre les mains dernièrement!

Sabine Ercklentz (trumpet, electronics) and Andrea Neumann (piano frame, electronics) have been working together for a while now, in various projects, but their duo remains a special creative space where they can try a little of everything. LAlienation covers a lot of ground, from microsonic free improvisation to field recording and post-jazz. This is a stimulating record (the techniques used, their juxtaposition), sexy (there ARE some pretty melodies), and diverse (each of the five tracks has a different frame, tools and concept). And it’s the most striking cover artwork I have seen in a while!
- François Couture -

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