Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Players: Ulher / Shibolet / Snir / Brenner / Meyer / Smith / Bymel
Balance Point Acoustics, BPA014
Reviewed by: Johan Redin
In addition to the duo with Gino Robair, Blips and Ifs, yet another album with Birgit Ulher has recently been released: Yclept, together with the American bassist Damon Smith and a bunch of Israeli musicians: Adi Snir on tenor and soprano saxophones, Roni Brenner and Michel Mayer on guitars and Ofer Bymel on percussion and Ariel Shibolet on soprano sax (tracks 4 and 6 only). The recording took place in Tel Aviv last year and proves to be an outstanding set of musical creativity. It is in other words quite a large ensemble and there are many things happening on all fronts. But there is room enough for everyone, with a fine balance of higher and lower register (the record is by the way exceptionally mastered). Smith plays a very physical bass; he knocks it, wrenches its strings, so you get full aware of its body. Ulher’s trumpet clicks and hisses on its distinctive way and the fact that there are two guitarists also turn out with great success I think. The mixture of wind and strings increases the intensity in such a way that any uncertainty produces ideal opportunities for the development. The effect is short and long passages that generates a sort of inward and outward movements to the improvised music, something that is quite difficult to manage in larger ensembles, and especially since this is their first get together. Ofer Bymels plying also impresses me, sparse and suddenly explosive in the tradition of Paul Lovens, but with individuality and innovative moves.
Yclept is a meeting of Tel Aviv, San Francisco and Hamburg – quite an unusual map with many cultural differences. But, as Klaus Janek emphasize in his liner notes, it is as evident as it is incredible that they all speak the very same language, instantly. For those who doubt this, just listen to the fifth track (they have no titles) where an almost frightening timing and perceptiveness develops into a musical discourse where all voices are of equal importance and all gestures immediate.
Originally in Swedish on soundofmusic.nu 2009-11-06 --

Players: Ulher / Shibolet / Snir / Brenner / Meyer / Smith / Bymel Yclept
Balance Point Acoustics, BPA014 
Reviewed by: Clifford Allen - Paris Transatlantic
From the first meaty whoomph of Damon Smith's arco bass, one is keenly aware of a strong connection to bassists like Peter Kowald and Buschi Niebergall. There's a workman-like physicality of horsehair on strings, as well as a muscular and bodily presence that, despite its massiveness; is almost balletic in its motions. Oakland-based Smith readily acknowledges the influence of the German bassists; his first audio experience of freely improvised bass was Kowald's FMP LP Duos: Europa. With percussionist Weasel Walter, he's crafted an approach that balances perilously between careening expressiveness and exacting detail. But the "violent rage" that characterizes a Walter disc is only one facet of Damon Smith's work. Witness Yclept, his latest collaboration with Tel Aviv saxophonist Ariel Shibolet and Hamburg trumpeter Birgit Ulher, herself a master carver of miniscule brassy flutters and gut-wrenching wails. The three are joined across seven improvisations by a group of musicians little known outside Israel: guitarists Roni Brenner and Michel Mayer, percussionist Ofer Bymel and saxophonist Adi Snir. Groans, flutters and stuttering yelps jab and dive at one another across these sonic canvases, supported by long, crisp howls of bowed harmonics. Smith is the most identifiable colour here, a craggy yet humanistic brown amid the whitish-silver flecks of reed (?) chirps and brassy pops and clucks. The guitars seem to be prepared, contributing feedback and electrified plinks; like Bymel's snare and thick brushes, they fill the soundscape with spiky, pointillist gestures. The sixth section is certainly the most traditional, guitar scrapes and towel-damped toms shadowing urgent long tones. It's something ineffable that makes an "improv" recording (i.e., not jazz or free-jazz) sing – one just knows when that sweet spot gets hit. Yclept is definitely an example of the indefinable "it."–CA

"Yclept" can be purchased through www.BalancePointAcoustics.com or by directly contacting oferbymel[at]gmail.com

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