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Music Unlimited Festival 2014

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Yannatou is gifted singer with amazing vocal range and an organic manner of vocal acrobatics stretching from primeval, wordless articulations to concise, highly personal song interpretations. Guy is also a gifted musician/improviser whose rich language covers Baroque music, jazz, free jazz and free improvisation who developed his own inventive techniques that includes playing the bass with brushes, a stringless bow and sticking metal sticks between strings. Both Yannatou and Guy played as if they were two lovers employing respective instruments in the service of a higher cause. With mutual innocence, playful teasing, humor, compassion, affection and always demonstrating attentive listening and support, finding new ways to enchant and inspire each other. During their too-short set, imaginative improvisations morphed naturally into songs that encompassed ancient traditional Mediterranean cultures, Baroque, contemporary or playful, free improvisations. It was music of the moment, magnificent in its depth, beauty and virtuoso delivery.

Back in Alter Schl8hof, the evening began with the twenty musicians of Austria's GIS (Go for Improvised Sounds} Orchestra, augmented by three composers—trumpeter Gigi Gratt, Christof Kurzmann and pianist Elisabeth Harnik. This orchestra was founded in 2012 featuring young musicians from Wels and the nearby city of Linz and is supported by the local Kulturverein Waschaecht Wels. The orchestra focused on conducted, game-like improvisations that enabled conductors as well as enthusiastic musicians a lot of freedom to experiment through different, even conflicting strategies in the various orchestral sections of vocalists, horns, rhythm, strings, keyboards and electronics. The skillful musicians immediately moved between playfully structured narratives, coherent in spirit; into joyful chaotic outbursts back and forth, often too noisy and almost too wild to contain, without subscribing to any genre or style.

The all-female chamber trio Till by Turning (pianist Emily Manzo, bassoon player Katherine Young and violinist Erica Dicker) presented a challenging contemporary program by composers Sofia Gubaidulina and Morton Feldman. Thoughtful improvisations and arresting sonic explorations focused on extended techniques and inventive exploration of silence and space.

Despite the demanding nature of this set and the often minimal, almost silent sonic articulations, the trio succeeded in keeping the audience carefully attuned to an adventurous journey. The most memorable piece of this set was Young's solo for bassoon and electronics, in which her inventive breathing techniques were enhanced by different effects until her breaths, the bassoon's total timbral range, and the electronics formed a strangely beautiful wall of inimitable sound.

The Scandinavian action jazz trio The Thing—Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Norwegian double bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love—need no introduction. Their performance in Wels ended a short and tight European tour, often joined by Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark, a close and frequent collaborator. The trio and Vandermark recorded (Immediate Sound (Smalltown Superjazz, 2007) and Vandermark and Nilssen-Love collaborate frequently and intensely in various outfits. They just released Extended Duos (Audiographic/PNL, 2014), a box-set of six discs and one DVD.

Still, no matter how many times one catches The Thing on albums or video clips, it is unique to experience them live, especially together with Vandermark, andpreferably from the front row. The assured, charismatic presence of all three musicians, and their level of inexhaustible stamina, boundless amounts of energy, and immediate power are simply breathtaking. There is no other group on either side of the Atlantic that exhibits such sheer commitment, without letting down for a second. Vandermark fit organically into this muscular unit, clearly enjoying the high-octane re-creation of John Coltrane's classic "India." The powerful set also included a moving dedication to ailing German jazz booking agent Erhard Hessling, a former Thing agent who was in the audience, and a fascinating, dramatic new Nilssen-Love composition inspired by Nordic mythology.

The Saturday program continued with the trio of Dutch vocal artist Jaap Blonk, Norwegian vocal and electronics artist Maja S.K. Ratkje and electronics noise master Lasse Marhaug. Blonk and Ratkje previously recorded vocal improvisations on MAJAAP, later adding electronics for Post-Human Identities (Kontrans, 2004 and '05). Ratkje and Marhaug's ongoing collaboration is more extensive and varied, beginning as a duo (Music for Shopping, ( Synesthetic, 2003), Music for Loving, Bottrop Boy, 2004, Music for Faking (C3R, 2004) and Music for Gardening (Pica Disk, 2009), expanding as a trio with Fe-Mail and Marhaug (All Men are Pigs (Gameboy, 2004) and later as the Slugfield trio with Nilssen-Love (Slime Zone (PNL, 2012).

At first, this ad-hoc trio's meeting sounded like it would be governed by an immediate flow of manic inventions by Ratkje and Marhaug (using, for example, plastic wrap as a sophisticated sonic generator) while Blonk's idiosyncratic linguistic reconstructions and minimalist use of basic electronics would be lost in the mix. The charismatic Ratkje was wise enough to challenge Blonk to incorporate his impressive array of vocals with facial grimaces that integrated into a set full of healthy doses of wit and humor. The trio managed to assemble the distinct, highly nuanced languages of all three into an arresting set of what sounded as futuristic love songs for nervous workaholics and noisy, very noisy people.

The night ended quite late, or very early in the morning, with hypnotic, acoustic techno set by Austrian trio Elektro Guzzi—electric guitarist Bernard Hammer, electric bassist Jakob Schneidewind and drummer Bernard Breuer, all armed with an impressive set of pedals and effects, but refraining from any typical, techno-like machine-sounding loops or rhythms. This often slandered genre sounded fresh and y rich when this trio played and then, even much more so when sax titan Mats Gustafsson charged them with his powerful free jazz sensibilities. The repetitive, circular modules gained layers methodically, with power and volition, then disintegrated again, only to be formed as another powerful, acoustic techno improvisation that kept the elated audience dancing throughout the set.

Day Three: Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014

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