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Reviews: Tidszon

Birgit Ulher, trumpet
Martin Küchen, saxophone, selected mutes, pocketradio
Lise-Lott Norelius, objects & live eletronics
Raymond Strid, drums & percussion

Creative Sources

Touching Extremes

The ideas contained in "Tidszon" flow so naturally that the CD meshes splendidly with the environment of the Saturday morning I'm listening in. The alternance of soft blows and irregular squeakings by trumpet and sax, respectively played by Birgit Ulher and Martin Küchen, is the base on which a four-way interchange develops with Lise-Lott Norelius' electronics and Raymond Strid's percussives. The artists also make good use of "normal" objects (you guess) which, quite awkwardly, stretch the boundaries between scheme and utter deconstruction. The textural palette, quilted in a tireless search for varieties, is undoubtedly ample and often surprisingly strategical, making you expect something that actually never developes the way you thought. This is resourceful, limpid stuff resisting our will of giving it a name to have it fitted into some kind of contextual trap.

Massimo Ricci


P.O. Box 1232
New York, NY 10018-9998

Of all the recent releases by the fine Creative Sources label, Unsk by the collective Tidszon may be the richest. The quartet consists of trumpeter and electronician Birgit Ulher, saxophonist Martin Küchen, electronician Lise-Lott Norelius, and percussionist Raymond Strid. Küchen and Strid are doubtless the more familiar of the four players here, and of the four they are the more expressive. Strid is a fantastic player, taking off roughly from Paul Lovens’ rumbling and slashing percussion but extending that influence in multiple ways. He has graced any number of excellent recordings with Marilyn Crispell and Mats Gustafsson, and on each he strikes that difficult balance between muscle and color. And Küchen is an amazing, and at times incendiary, saxophonist who recently won some deserved acclaim for last year’s fab Exploding Customer disc on Ayler Records. But paired with Ulher – a terrifically inventive trumpeter who explores territory close to that of Franz Hautzinger, Ruth Barberan, and Greg Kelley – and Norelius (who is new to me but is quite adept with her electronics), they explore a frostier, more remote area of improvised music.

While these improvisations are clearly informed by contemporary electro-acoustic music, they are equally beholden to robust European traditions of free blowing. And there are many moments in Tidszon’s music – with objects rolling on drumheads, spit gurgling in horns and long electronic tones connecting it all like threads in a web – where that elusive synthesis between old and new idioms seems to have been achieved. Some pieces come across like genuine four-part conversations, with clearly distinct gestures popping here and there like flash bulbs: a flourish of electronics, a delicate brush stroke, a chewy reed or brass lick. Yet just as many radiate with the aural equivalent of listening to a colony of insects laboring away on the other side of a steel plate; there are sounds of grinding, boring, drilling, and wheezing. Even on these occasions, the fascinatingly cryptic playing sparkles with the individuality of the players, who clatter, gurgle, chortle and burn in distinct ways.

So much freely improvised music succeeds or fails on the basis of gesture: what possibilities can be opened up with/through a single utterance or feint? How does a lone chirrup crystallize a larger flow of events? Or in what ways might a meaningful narrative be spun not so much from continuous wild expressionism as from interlocking muted asides? These are the questions Tidszon pursues and, if the music doesn’t seem to resolve over the course of these eight improvisations, that’s largely because the musicians’ collective aesthetic resists closure. In Tidszon’s world, that openness is the mark of compelling, challenging improvisations.

Jason Bivins


Thanks, Cash + Tidszon

Listening to Thanks, Cash (Sedimental) and Tidszon (Creative Sources) together is a bit like playing those Metronome All-Stars sessions from the late 1940s, when Miles Davis and Fats Navarro sat next to one another in the trumpet section one year, and when Dizzy Gillespie was the sole trumpeter the next. That’s because with Axel Dörner and Greg Kelley on the first CD and Birgit Ulher on the latter you can hear representations of the sort of brass evolution Davis, Navarro, and Gillespie were attempting in their time. Plus, to confirm the all-star sobriquet a little further, Kelley and Dörner are joined by soprano saxophonist Bhob Rainey in that quartet, and Ulher by multi-reedman Martin Küchen in UNSK.

In their own ways, Boston’s Rainey and Stockholm’s Küchen are as revolutionary in their approach as Metronome’s reed winners—Charlie Parker and Lee Konitz—were in their day. Furthermore, UNSK is propelled by inventive Swedish drummer Raymond Strid. His work with ensembles as different as Barry Guy’s New Orchestra and a trio with British bassist Tony Wren and Küchen proves that his adaptability is on the same level as that of Shelly Manne and Max Roach, the All-Stars of the late 1940s, was in their epoch.

You can’t take the metaphor too far, however. There was no category in the 1940s for the live-electronics and objects that Swede Lise-Lott Norelius brings to UNSK. And even Lennie Tristano, the Metronome piano winner for those years, may have had difficulty with the inside piano stylings of German Andrea Neumann. Putting these bands into this sort of context should reduce the fear some people have about unfamiliar sounds. Followers of trumpeter Roy Eldridge, saxist Johnny Hodges, drummer Gene Krupa, and pianist Teddy Wilson in the 1940s were as unsure about the Gillespie-Parker-Tristano advances as today’s modern mainstreamers are of the sounds here. Although these discs aren’t lighthearted listening so much as deep listening, the rewards can be the same.

First of all, push the timbres of conventional instruments out of your inner ear when listening. The soundscape is completely different. Start with UNSK as well. Every so often you’ll hear Strid advancing the odd press roll, Ulher playing some chromatic runs and Küchen trilling and tongue-slapping—techniques as old as the instruments themselves. Still, the sounds here are definitely post-jazz mixed with contemporary composition—which is partially Norelius’ background anyhow.

A track such as “AZODT”, for instance, includes plastic penny-whistle-like squeals, the resonation of traps kit movement along the floor, and sniffs and aviary cheeps from live electronics. At one point, signals from the electronics reconfigure the reed output with a cello-like tone, then unidentified scratches and scrapes are brought forward in percussion clip-clops, solid, brassy tones, and reed tongue-stops.

Trumpeter Ulher, who has also worked with British drummer Roger Turner and Swiss live-electronics experimenter Ernst Thoma, brings a lyrical bent to her solos in tunes like “HOVT”. Overall, though, save for some muted and very internal plunger work, her chief strategy is pushing pure unaccented air from the mouthpiece to the bell, usually without valve reliance. On this track, it’s done over tongue-slaps plus reed drones from the saxophonist, peeps and bell-like resonation from the drummer, and an undertow of looping electronics.

Küchen, who also plays with Exploding Customer, a Swedish Free Jazz quartet, mutes any ecstatic exhibitionism here. Raspy growls join fluttering electronic signals from Norelius, plus cymbals and snare abrasions from Strid’s possible use of knitting needles for drumsticks. Later, a mechanized buzz is interrupted by metallic pressure from a saxophone’s body tube, then shrill reed trills complement bubbly electronic rotations.  Strid doesn’t time keep per se, but instead ratchets and smacks items that sound as if they range from a plastic water pail to aluminum pie plates, while speedily pitter-pattering on the snare and ride cymbal. He also uses subtle snare manipulation and a quick martial drum roll to redirect pulsating electronic oscillations, brass mouthpiece tongue-kisses, and serpentine reed trills into consequential movement.

Tidszon’s climax is the final track where high-pitched pulsation from the buzzing electronics, including what sound like ray gun discharges, make space for the others’ output. Their textures include pressurized muting of the sax bell against a pants’ leg, rampaging brass tones, and cymbal rattles and taps as well as strokes on what is probably a plastic version of a wood block.

by Ken Waxman
6 December 2004

Tobias Richtsteig


Das improvisierende Quartett UNSK ist sich offenkundig einig. Die gute  Dreiviertelstunde spannungsreicher Musik auf ihrer CD „Tidszon“ folgt einer kompakten Ästhetik der behutsam artikulierten Klangereignisse und lädt mit dem Verzicht auf expressive Dynamik zum genauen Hinhören ein. Doch besinnliche Meditation steht nicht auf dem  Programm der Hamburger Trompeterin Birgit Ulher und ihrer schwedischen KollegInnen Lise-Lott Norelius (live-electronics), Raymond Strid (drums/percussion) und Martin Küchen (saxofon). In acht Tracks von zwei bis knapp neun Minuten Länge entwickeln sie enge Interaktionen. Luftgeräusche der Bläser treten dabei mit Gongs und dem Rascheln der Percussion und niedrigfrequent puckernder Elektronik an der Grenze von Ton und Stille ins Gespräch, und steigern sich auch zur dichten Gegenrede mit Pfeifen, Kreischen und Spaltklängen. Überzeugend in Erinnerung bleibt „Tidszon“ jedoch durch den Respekt, den die vier MusikerInnen sowohl sich gegenseitig, als auch den einzelnen Klängen und damit letzlich auch den HörerInnen entgegenbringen. So ist das Album mehr als nur Dokument geglückter Improvisation – der Tonträger „Tidszon“ transportiert eine Zone unmittelbarer Intensität, die man medienvermittelter Musik nicht zugetraut hätte.

Bad Alchemy


Birgit Ulher zum Zweiten kommt als Teil des 2003 formierten Quartetts UNSK. Auf dessen Debut-CD Tidszon (Creative Sources Recordings, cs014) lässt sich verfolgen, wie sie ihren reduktionistischen, geräuschnahen Trompetenklang mischt mit dem ähnlich orientierten Impronoise des Stockholmer Bariton- & Sopranosaxophonisten Martin Küchen, den perkussiven und gesampelten Geräuschen von Lise-Lott Norelius, die mit Anitas Livs bekannt geworden ist, und der Percussion von Raymond Strid, einem der durch seine Kollaborationen mit Mats Gustafsson in Gush oder mit Barry Guy renommiertesten schwedischen Improvisierer. Die Vier tasten in halb bruitophiler, halb phonophober Skrupelhaftigkeit entlang der ausgefransten Ränder diskret nuancierter Kakophonie. Die Geräuschwelt ist abgeflacht zum Pianissimowasteland. Jedes Zucken des Phonometers wird zum staunenswerten Spektakel. Die Mikrostrukturen von Geräusch und Stille werden wie unter einem Elektronenmikroskop zu den schartigen Kratern und Grand Canyons eines Sonic-Fiction-Brobdingnag. Milben blähen sich zu Monströsitäten, Staubflocken zu Riesenquadern, gezirpte und gefiepte Plinks zu mirakulösen Audiophänomenen, Plonks zum Meteoritenhagel. Wie beim Druckausgleich von warm nach kalt wird die Aufmerksamkeit von den Feinheiten angesaugt. Der Horchposten dreht beständig am Zoomrädchen der Signalabtaster. Aber die Sinne, das Hirn, wollen nicht nur wahrnehmen, sie wollen - verstehen ist nicht das richtige Wort -, sie wollen gemeint sein, nicht nur im Sandsturm der Geräusche rumstehen wie Sperrgut. Die eingefangenen Reize sind bei Tidszon nicht nur minimal, sie sind fremd, sperrig, so abstrakt wie die Titel: ‚HOVT‘, ‚IRKST‘, ‚MAWT‘, ‚SYOT‘... Die Noisequelle lässt sich lokalisieren zwischen 58°N und 61°N, 14°O und 17°O - Svealand. Ihr Zielgebiet ist unbestimmbar.

Rigo Dittmann


Vaporized spirits surface on the quartet album by UNSK, an acronym for its members-trumpeter Ulher, electronic specialist Norelius, drummer Strid, and reed player Küchen. The band shimmers through eight coded titles evolving from individual introspective musings that spur responses and retorts from the others of a jagged, abbreviated nature. There is an otherworldly ambiance circling around the abrupt interaction. Silence often is a copilot on this mystic flight, as is a methodical pace, but the action rises above a simmer on numerous occasions. Küchen stretches his notes in rubbery fashion while Ulher uses blunted slurs and tonguing techniques to force brusque tones from her trumpet. The horns coalesce in an atonal sound spectrum surrounded by live electronics and subdued percussion additives that enhance further the purified mystique of the set.

Norelius’s electronics blend in favorably with compatible tone patterns produced by the band. Drums, trumpet, and saxophone syllables are individually plucked from the group’s dialogue and massaged/regenerated in a way that embellishes and fills in some of the blank spaces. Often the pitch is ultra-high, as when Ulher concocts a brew of eerie squeaks and squeals or Küchen takes his soprano saxophone to the upper register. When Küchen’s baritone creeps in, the mood becomes somber as the deep tones of his sax, the drums, and the electronics burrow to subterranean levels. UNSK speaks in an alien tongue, yet the language is easily translated by performing the simple act of listening. Yes, it is difficult, and yes, it is demanding, but immersing oneself into this world of sound will generate rewards.

Frank Rubolino (Cadence - vol.31 no.3 March 2005)


Raymond Strid, maintenant en ce sens une grande tradition de batteurs de jazz et de free, domine cet enregistrement en y imprimant la marque très forte du batteur qui emmène, arrache, fait avancer. Il partage ici ce rôle dominant avec Lise-Lotte Norelius à l'électronique: on voit que les traditions instrumentales des genres sont tout de même sérieusement bousculées. Bien que les interventions des deux musiciens ne soient à proprement parler ni mélodiques ni harmoniques, ni rythmiques, leur duo imprime un mouvement à l'ensemble. Il serait injuste de passer sous silence Martin Küchen et Birgit Ulher qui contribuent à l'élaboration d'une musique assez ample et de caractère atmosphérique.

Noël Tachet, Improjazz

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