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Album Review

Speak Easy: @ Konfrontationen

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Speak Easy: @ Konfrontationen
Recorded in July 2016, at Festival Konfrontationen in Nickelsdorf, Austria, this album consists of a single track lasting fifty-two minutes, which probably represented the entire Speak Easy set at the festival. Speak Easy comprises vocalists Ute Wassermann and Phil Minton, with Thomas Lehn on analogue synthesizer and Martin Blume on drums and percussion. The quartet previously released Backchats (Creative Sources, 2009), the same year its DVD The Loft Concert was issued (see YouTube below.)

As Wasserman and Minton both collaborate with other voice performers—she with Jaap Blonk on Wasserman, Blonk & Vorfeld (Kontrans, 2019) and with Duncan Harrison and Dylan Nyoukis on Dissecting an Utterance (Spricht Editions, 2019); he with his Feral Concord and the larger Feral Choir, and also with Nyoukis as a duo and in the trio Skatgobs—it is a pleasure to hear the two together in what is tantamount to a summit meeting of improvising voice performers. In particular, it is good to hear them together in front of an audience, as they both blossom when performing live in concert. Typically, both Wasserman and Minton live up to the description "voice performers" rather than "singers"; they both sing rather well at times, but they do far more than that with their vocal chords, feeding off one another and creating what sounds like a large cast of characters—human and otherwise—throughout the performance.

Although the two vocalists could probably have given a duo performance, great credit is due to Lehn and Blume for supplying a sympathetic, supportive soundscape in which the vocalists can relax and be creative without being unduly mindful of fitting in with that background. In the event, all four elements fit together beautifully, sounding as if they were designed for each other. The group performance flows easily without any awkward stop-start moments or clashes between the intentions of one member and the others. Altogether, this is an object lesson in how four people ought to improvise together, whatever their means of making music.

Track Listing

Speechless.

Personnel

Phil Minton: voice / vocals; Ute Wassermann: voice / vocals; Thomas Lehn: synthesizer; Martin Blume: drums.

Album information

Title: @ Konfrontationen | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Confront Recordings

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