at16 ‘electricals’ by EKG
Kyle Bruckmann - oboe, english horn & analogue electronics
Ernst Karel - trumpet & analogue electronics
1. Field 05:14
2. Drift 13:26
3. Current 08:51
4. Resistance 08:34
5. Interval 10:15
recorded in the studio in Cambridge MA & Chicago,
and live in New York & Philadelphia, 2007 - 2008
“Rarely has an album been more truthfully named. While both members of EKG play acoustic instruments (Ernst Karel, trumpet; Kyle Bruckmann, double reeds), their presence on this record is negligible. Analogue electronics, mainly modular synthesizers so hirsute with cables that they look like a Rogaine success story, dominate the sound. Immune to the lure of such effete affectations as keyboards, EKG manage their gear the old-fashioned way; by twisting knobs, flipping switches, yanking patch cords in and out, and sometimes using their own fingers as conductors between cables and instruments.
The resulting music sounds, to borrow a phrase from Bruckmann’s occasional collaborator Gino Robair, like voltage made audible. Electricals’ five tracks are composed mainly of highly tactile low end hums, feedback tendrils, static blasts, and motor buzzes that are deployed with a palpable sense of contour within a dynamic range that goes from loud and in your face to distant and small. But the fact that Bruckmann and Karel bring their horns at all speaks to an essential EKG quality, a perpetual state of being in between things. At the end of “Drift,” a series of lonely brass cries seem to issue not from Karel’s trumpet, but from the collective unconscious, they’re so rich with wordless meaning. Moments later, at the beginning of the aptly named “Current,” EKG speak in the more dominant electrical tongues, generating malevolently vibrating tones that end in loud microphone bumps.
EKG also shuttle between composition and improvisation. While everything they play is spontaneously generated, they’re not averse to consciously revisiting material in concert. Electricals was assembled from different concerts and rehearsal recordings, some made miles and years apart; the music isn’t just played, it’s constructed in a way that yields the best of two approaches. Each track sports the carefully graduated interaction and promise of potential instant change that total improvisation provides, but develops with the inevitability that hindsight affords. Each hum, shimmer, and bump yields to another in a way that feels absolutely necessary.”
Bill Meyer, Dusted
“If there ever was such a thing as electroacoustic improvisation this disc would probably typify such a categorisation in that it consists of two musicians who combine acoustic and electric instrumentation in such a way that it often becomes difficult to tell them apart. On the whole the music is relatively understated, consisting more of layered tones and warbling textures than anything too energetic and eventful, but the switches in sound when they do come tend towards sudden handbrake turns rather than gentle blending into the flow. There are five pieces altogether, each a little vignette in itself. The second track, titled Drift is the most calmly poignant to my ears, though ironically given the title the track also slowly grows into a troubled cauldron of electronic bubbles and groans. Maybe it drifts there but it is not always a relaxing journey. Resistance may be my favourite track, a fretful exchange of simple yet disturbingly charged lines of muted sounds with a dark, grainy undertone to them, threatening aggression in several places.
Electronics is a deceptive release. If you only half-listen to the album while trying to do other things at the same time its easy to miss the subtleties of the music. I first listened last night while writing my daily post and although the music was pleasing I missed a good deal. Listening on headphones in bed early this morning revealed a lot more, the tension simmering between the two layers of sound became clear, and the overall sense of composition to the recording shone through, with each track obviously improvised and yet involving a placement of sound that betrayed the experience and skill of the musicians. A really nice release, yet another strong one from Another Timbre.” - Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
“Kyle Bruckmann and Ernst Karel concentrate, as implied by the title, on the non-acoustic portion of their arsenal here, fashioning five fine pieces again, as with the previous releases, balancing the crunchy with the smooth, the fluttery with the grainy buzz. I get a subtle narrative flavor here as well; much of this music would work very well in partnership with visuals. When the horns do emerge, it's often quite effective in a plaintive, melancholy manner. The structures are off-center enough that I find new facets on each hearing, always a good sign. Good stuff!” - Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
“The 16th release from this British label is an album by the duo EKG, and is as unpretentious as the daisies on its cover. It goes without saying that these two young musicians have nothing to do with diagnostics of cardio-vascular illness. Instead, EKG is made up of Ernst Karel and Kyle Bruckmann, lovers of analogue electronic instruments and early hardcore. Electricals is the group’s fourth album.
The fact that Ernst also plays the trumpet and Kyle, the oboe and English horn, is not that important as the brass instruments are only a drop in the bucket of noise that fills to the brim the five compositions on this disc. One more detail: the sound of live instruments here is not simply the raw material that is later transformed. The melancholy trumpet and oboe soar above the frozen soundscape but never join into a united whole.
For some time now, EKG has existed in the borderlands between composition and improvisation. As the musicians themselves admit, their music is borne of rehearsal and preparation as much from the spontaneity of live performances. Neither Ernst nor Kyle consider it a necessity to solidify their material into a finalized form. Why? Simply because there is no reason for such a decisive step, and their niche or reputation in the scene doesn’t concern these young guys. That is how music is born: the crackle of filters, ultrasound-roar of oscillographs, barely perceptible changing landscape… The cosiness of a world made by hand. “
- Dennis Vederko, Improvisation & Noise (translation: Maxim Pozdorovkin)
“Chicago-based improviser Kyle Bruckmann certainly does get around, having collaborated with the likes of Kurt Johnson, Olivia Block, Jeb Bishop, Scott Rosenberg, Gino Robair, Werner Dafeldecker and Tatsuya Nakatani, to name but a few. I am much less familiar with Ernst Karel, although this turns out to be the fourth disc from EKG. Even though Kyle and Ernt play acoustic instruments like oboe and trumpet, it is often difficult to tell what exactly they are playing since nothing is as it appears. Eerie, spacious, electronic and other odd sounds are carefully placed upon clouds of silence, drifting or floating in the air. Static, quiet yet effective spurts, analogue synth fragments, music concrete snips, all well crafted and selectively placed. We rarely if ever hear something that sounds like an oboe or trumpet, not that it matters when the outcome is this mysterious and engaging.”
Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
“Kyle Bruckmann and Ernst Karel operate as EKG and have had a few pretty good releases before. Their music doesn't seem to deal that much with the instruments they play, which are most of the time not to be recognized at all, although on the other hand their sound hasn't entirely disappeared either. Sometimes we hear the wind instruments, but throughout this music mostly deals with the electronic processing thereof. Perhaps that's why I like it so much. EKG feed the sounds through their analogue electronics, making it sound entirely different of course, but it keeps that improvised feel, with sudden moves and swift changes, or in 'Interval' a mean drone like sound. That combination of analogue and electronic improvisation leads to mighty fine results here.”
- Frans de Ward, Vital Weekly
“I like this duo a lot. Their brand of highly-experimental electroacoustic improvisation beckons me and mystifies me. Great sense of intrigue, tension, and sensory displacement leading to the discovery of an “other” form of beauty.” - Francois Couture, Délire Actuel
“EKG: Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, English horn and analogue electronics) and Ernst Karel (trumpet and analogue electronics). The fourth album from this duo, made between 2007 and 2008, sounds much more electronic and abstract than the previous ones. Instrumental sources are erased in favour of textures and materials that give a result closer to electroacoustic compositions than improvisations. A landscape that is as much arid and dry as cinematographic; like a science fiction from the 1950’s.” – Metamkine
“Performed by Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, English horn) and Ernst Karel (trumpet), both artists also making use of analogue electronics. Initial adherence to a logic of quasi-static restriction, prevalently symbolized by the gradual morphing of an unstable immobility which, little by little, gives room to a series of slightly conflicting occurrences, never trespassing its peripheral limits. Not exactly good-natured, the music fertilizes the field of concentration by tempting the listener with spacious transmutations and instantaneous openings, revealing in turn threatening obscurities and enticing discrepancies. The program changes a bit with the introduction of additional contrasts in timbres and dynamics, thus enhancing the proportion between economy of means and stimulation of the perceptive systems. Should you have any doubt, the original character of the instruments is more or less decomposed, a thorough mutation which lets us forget about the concept of “pitch”, replacing it with something nearer to “nuclear degradation”. The concluding piece “Interval” offers tasty food to drone lovers too, surrounding them with potent lows blemished by scathing dispersals of power and paralyzing glissandos dipped in feedback and electricity. Splendid finale for a inexplicably excellent work, one that needs to be listened attentively rather than described by (as always) futile words. Its mystifying impenetrability, highlighted by a coherent sturdiness, speaks for itself.” - Massimo Ricci, Temporary Fault
“A few years ago, a reintroduction to EAI for this writer resulted in some aesthetic
head-scratching. Weaned on AMM, MEV, David Behrman and the like, I found recent "reductionist"
EAI wanting. For me, those earlier explorations undertaken as "live electronic music
- improvised" offered freedom and self-discovery in spades, even if they resulted
from the painterly application of a bow to strings or the crackling of homemade instruments
and contact mics. Something physical and immediate was represented in those divergent
strands of work, a classical confrontation and gestural form purposely missing from
the quiet rumble of much recent EAI.
Across nearly twenty discs in a fairly short time, Simon Reynell’s Another Timbre has presented the work of a number of electro-acoustic artists. If there is a vein running through the label’s output, it is that of materialist directness and profound immediacy. EKG is the duo of Bay Area oboist Kyle Bruckmann and German trumpeter Ernst Karel; of the two, Bruckmann is the more familiar figure, spanning the worlds of non-idiomatic and electro-acoustic improvisation as well as prog and noise-rock. "Field" is measured in its approach, its long humming tones permeated by mixing-board glitches, rattles, and unruly percussive shorts. It’s somewhat traditional in organization despite untraditional means, as fuzzy patches, blips and rumble merge into a minor crescendo and fall away by piece’s end. "Drift" is despite its title highly focused – an orchestrated unity of mournful hum punctuated by cantankerous, mealy circuit clatter and brief pulses. "Current" begins with waves of queasy whirr and stuttering, the violence later subsiding into a tense face-off of held tones. Though both players are accomplished acoustic improvisers, the emphasis is squarely on electronics, though snatches of traditional instrumentation emerge to color the canvas – a daub of chortling trumpet here, sinewy reeds there. The improvisations here are fairly uniform in character, but that quality gives a suite-like feeling to Electricals: there’s a broad range of gestures and effects despite the narrow palette.” – Clifford Allen, Paris Transatlantic
“Electricals is the fourth album by the EKG duo of and Ernst Karel (EKG stands for the Ernst and Kyle Group). It follows Group (Formed, 2006), their collaboration with Giuseppe Ielasi in which the three integrated analogue electronics and acoustic instruments into a coherent whole, giving the electronics a remarkable feeling of humanity and warmth.
Now Electricals successfully repeats the feat. This album and all of its tracks are appropriately named, as their titles all seem to relate to electricity in some way. At times, the music includes those unwanted noises that sound systems are wont to produce in the presence of electric fields and such. Rather than that creating a random noise environment, EKG creatively sculpt such hisses, hums and pops into an integrated piece with the sound of their wind instruments. Paradoxically, the wind instruments often play sustained notes, leading to tones that could be electronic in origin.
Starting with studio or live recordings of duo improvisations, Bruckmann and Karel edit, mix, extend and assemble them into pieces that almost warrant the description "compositions."
To the duo, it seems important that they use analogue and not digital electronics; partly this is for historical reasons—their affection for the electronic studio sounds of the '50s and '60s—and partly for the sense of hands-on interactivity that using analogue electronics brings. Both reasons help explain the humanity of their electronics compared to some laptop-produced sounds. For comparable examples, think of the differences in sound between acoustic and electric guitar or between double bass and bass guitar.
The connectedness of the track titles emphasizes the unity of the five tracks. While not forming a suite, the end results hang together well and make for fascinating and engaging listening.” - John Eyles, All About Jazz
"With the oboe and English horn (Kyle Bruckmann), trumpet (Ernst Karel) and analog electronics (both), this American duo performs impertinent and unobtrusive improvisations. The acoustic and the electronic approach each other to the point that it is impossible to determine which is which. When the instruments simultaneously speak unconventional languages, this is not about music based on recognition and melodies.
Like many others on the improv scene, Bruckmann and Karel also approach their instruments very closely in their sound creation. So close that it is not possible to distinguish between the instruments' tones and to link them to the musical context. The sounds and how they are put together become everything! It is also in this that the disc's five improvisations differ. The sound imagery speaks unobtrusively of electricity in "Field" and becomes almost ghostly in "Interval," while it approaches harder surfaces with feedback in "Drift."
In almost everything, Bruckmann and Karel do it well; they balance successfully between events-meditation, electric-acoustic, structure-fragment to produce many exciting moods. It works quite excellently to have the music on in the background, but to really absorb it requires a close listening - otherwise a lot is missed.”
- Magnus Nystrom, Sound of Music [translated by Jennifer Mack]
“Patrząc na katalog Another Timbre łatwo dostrzec, że wytwórnia skupia się na projektach
z udziałem muzyków brytyjskich, choć nie jest to żelazną regułą, bo artyści z Kontynentu
też są obecni. Dopiero szesnaste wydawnictwo AT oferuje wyprawę za Ocean, prezentując
amerykański duet: Ernst Karel i Kyle Bruckmann.
Ta dwójka klasycznie wykształconych instrumentalistów (Karel - trąbka, Bruckmann - obój) poznała się pod koniec lat '90 w Chicago, gdzie uczestniczyli w różnych projektach związanych z muzyką improwizowaną, współpracowali m.in. z Olivią Block, Gene'em Colemanem.
Na piątym albumie projektu większy niż instrumenty wpływ na brzmienie materiału ma analogowa elektronika (co tytuł jeszcze podkreśla), trąbka prawie w ogóle nie jest obecna, ale zdarzają się momenty, gdzie dźwięki akustyczne da się rozpoznać (Bruckman gra tutaj też na innym rzadko spotykanym okazie - rożku angielskim). Jest tak np. w końcówce 13-minutowego (najdłuższego na tym albumie, trwającym ponad trzy kwadranse) "Drift", który przywodzi na myśl pierwsze wydawnictwo Another Timbre - Tempestuous tria The Contect of Pleasures. W podobny sposób, choć mniej agresywnie, dźwięki EKG powoli opadają lub wznoszą się, rysując delikatnie krzywizny. Ta metoda jest przeniesiona na kształtowanie elektronicznej materii (a instrumenty nie służą kontrapunktowaniu, raczej budowaniu osłon lub przesłon zmieniających jej obraz), która faluje w ostrożnych modulacjach, zmianach częstotliwości. Duet często operuje dźwiękami o dużej powierzchni, ale nie tyle rozlewa dźwiękowe plamy, co z precyzją wycina z nich wstęgi. Nie zapomina o odpowiednim ich rozłożeniu - pod nimi skradają się ziarniste, lekko chropowate drobiny, nieraz przebijające się wyżej i wywołujące zaburzające wypustki. Ernst Karel przywołuje muzykę elektroniczną lat '50-'60 jako inspirację i to faktycznie słychać: początek "Current" ma takie mechaniczno-brumiące, lo-fi brzmienie, później pojawiają się efekty w stylu dawnych operacji "muzyki na taśmę" - brudne echo przekształcające pojedyncze uderzenie. Zamykający album "Interval" jest może najbliżej dronu, ale im dłużej trwa, tym bardziej kłopotliwy się robi, brudząc i naddzierając czyste z początku połacie dźwiękowych płócien, tak że trudno wylegiwać się na nich w spokoju.
Użycie analogowej elektroniki pozwala myśleć o EKG w kontekście dwóch innych amerykańskich duetów: English i GOD, które też operują takim sprzętem. Jednak EKG w porównaniu z nimi jest o wiele delikatniejsze, nie pozwala sobie na nieokiełznanie i wycieczki w wąwozy hałasu. Może wynikać to też z metod pracy, bo choć Bruckmann i Karel są improwizatorami, to ich wspólne albumy są wynikiem komponowania: edycji, aranżowania, przestawiania materiału nagranego podczas improwizacji. I jedno jest jasne: są w tym bardzo dobrzy, słychać, że utwory są przemyślane, da się wyczuć włożoną w nie pracę. Podobne wrażenie przynosiła poprzednia płyta duetu No sign (pomiędzy nią a Electricals była jeszcze Group z dołączonym do EK G - Giuseppe Ielasi'm), która choć nieco mroczniejsza, zamieszkuje zbliżone rejony. Nie ma mowy o powtórkach, więc w niczym nie ujmuje to wartości najnowszego krążka - jest dobrze, ale może mogłoby być lepiej? “
Piotr Tkacz, nausznie