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Gebhard Ullmann: No Age

Budd Kopman By

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The musical world that Gebhard Ullmann's No Age inhabits is admittedly quite different from Out To Lunch (Nabel, 1985). While the vibe resides distinctly within what would be called "New Age," the music, playing and production are so well done, and with so much extra spice, that it lands outside that genre and is indeed "No Age."

The immediacy of Out To Lunch has been replaced with an electronic sheen which comes predominantly from a synthesizer and related electronics, as the main trio from previous record returns, with a number of guest musicians adding various sounds over the course of the disc. For the most part, the tunes are pretty and the mood eschews cynicism or angst.

The album splits into two main parts with Ullmann using soprano saxophone solely on the first three tracks. The later tracks change the mood from bright, simple and cheery to one that is more complex and ambiguous.

The opener, "Connossence," is very happy, as Willers strums guitar accompanied by the big sound of low synthesizer, over which Ullmann's soprano sax soars. "Escalate in 15/8" opens with a delineation of the odd meter with hand claps, drums and then guitar. The melody and harmony is simple, but is kept interesting by the meter, even when the arrangement opens up into a grand ballad complete with a rising bass line, splashing drums and reverbed guitar.

"Minimal Kids," the longest track, begins the change to more abstract and serious music as it opens with an eight note repeated figure (3/2/3), in the minimalist manner, which is then joined by another, creating a sort of minimalist counterpoint. Over this, Ullmann's soprano and Willer's guitar play the main melodic phrase, staying light and bouncy. However, when a repeated, low synthesizer riff is added, the mood turns ominous as Willers and then Ullmann play plaintive lines against it.

Starting With "Sunday With My Snow Angel," Ullmann plays mostly flute (bass, alto and concert) and the music becomes more like sound painting, creating images through music. "Parallels" is also atmospheric but full of drama, beginning with the underlying tom-toms and the more complex melody. Breaking down into contrasting sections held together by the tom-toms, the track carries the listener forward in unexpected ways.

The album closes with "Jou Be Lée," which has a Caribbean feel, and the first appearance of pianist Hans Ludemann, who is accompanied by children's voices and clapping. Leading to a soft-edged flute section, the piece sails away with children singing a simple melody as the band's accompaniment grows more complex.

Quite different than anything else in Ullmann's oeuvre, No Age is nevertheless an interesting experiment and successful on more than one level.

Track Listing: Connossence; Escalate in 15/8; Minimal Kids; Sunday With My Snow Angel; Parallels; Moon Gone; Jou Be L

Personnel: Gebhard Ullmann: soprano and tenor saxophone, bass, alto and concert flute, handclaps; Andreas Willers: electric, classical and 12-string guitar, synthesizers, handclaps; Nikolas Schauble: drums, gongs, windchimes, bells, percussion, marimba; Knut Jens: sound and sequencer programming; Hans Ludemann: piano; Glen Moore: bass; Trilok Gurtu: caixixi, crotale, sound percussion; Burhan Ocal: gongs, darabuka; Le Petit Chanteurs: vocals.

Title: No Age | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Intuition


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