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at76   Berlin Series No.4                           split CD

1 ‘luv’ by Sabine Vogel                28’

Composed from recordings made with Landscape Quartet 2012-14

youtube extract

2 ‘kopfüberwelle’                     39’

Chris Abrahams - pipe organ,  Sabine Vogel - flutes

Improvisation recorded live at the NOW now Festival, Sydney, January 2012                                                                         youtube extract

sabine vogel another timbre

A split CD focusing on two aspects of the work of Berlin-based flautist and composer Sabine Vogel.

The first half of the disc presents a composition by Sabine constructed using recordings made at various exterior locations as part of her work with Landscape Quartet, a group committed to creating music in and with the natural environment. The other members of the quartet are Bennett Hogg, Stefan Östersjö and Matthew Sansom, and you can see some of their work documented here

The second half of the disc contains a recording of a live improvisation performed at a church as part of the NOW now festival in Sydney in 2012, with Sabine on flutes in duo with Chris Abrahams, who plays pipe organ.


“On the fourth volume of Another Timbre’s Berlin Series, things get more complicated. Like the first three volumes, it’s a split release, and like those CDs it features improvised and composed new music by Berliners. But the definition of “based in Berlin” loosens here, the split between the two parts is less absolute and the music is less tethered to “improvised music” as a discreet set of sounds and practices.

Flute player Sabine Vogel, who lives across the river from Berlin in Potsdam, a city of lakes and landmarks, appears on both of this volume’s performances. She has worked in spontaneous settings since the 1990s. Like trumpeters Axel Dörner and guitarist Nate Wooley, Vogel uses amplification and unconventional technique to push against the limits of her instrument’s received lore. Her playing often draws attention to the facts that you’re hearing a tube of metal and a stream of air that’s just come out of someone’s lungs.

But her flute improvisations are only one element of “luv.”  Vogel has also taken recordings of outdoor environments and the sounds of the Landscape Quartet’s (Vogel, Bennett Hogg, Matthew Sansom, Stefan Östrjö) instruments being played by wind and water, and edited them into a non-narrative sequence of sounds that shift inside and outside in ways that jazz critics never consider when they use those words. Rather, the selection of material recalls that of recent Erstwhile releases that feature Jürg Frey and Toshiya Tsunoda, and the music evokes a somewhat similar sense of blurred reality.

But the way the elements are balanced is quite different; on the aforementioned Ersts, instrumental sounds tend to be lesser partners that are used to draw attention to action taking place within the field recordings, but on “luv” the elements are either acting on the instruments or set somewhat behind them in the mix. While the investment in dealing with natural settings and sounds suggests the love that Vogel and her Landscape Quartet mates have for them, this is still music that expresses a 21st century, first world fact of life — that people can manipulate their circumstances so that their creations are in the foreground, and acts of will can require nature to frame or accompany said objects. This music uses the sounds of the outside rather like a landscape architect uses the arrangement of plants and earth to make a home more beautiful.

The second piece, “kopfüberwelle,” was recorded live in a church in Sydney, Australia, which is one of the places where Vogel’s duet partner Chris Abrahams keeps a pad. Abrahams is best known as pianist for the Necks, but he also spends a lot of time in Berlin, where he is an active participant in the improv scene. Presumably this fact is enough to justify this piece of music’s inclusion in a Berlin-themed series even though it was recorded 6000 miles away.

And maybe they needed access to just the right organ, because particularities are certainly important to this music. Abrahams is not out to wow you with his quick keyboard prowess here, but with his thoughtful selection of sounds. Each tone he chooses sticks around for a long stretch, occupying a stratum of pitch well separated from the next organ note. Vogel’s breaths, pad strikes, and plain old notes move in the space between two droning notes, commanding attention and space by virtue of their activity. Duration allows the listener to shift focus back and forth from organ to flute, and from quick movement to glacial drift.

While this music is improvised, neither the fact that it was nor the language of improvisation is what it proposes to be important. Rather, it invites you to get lost in a very specific series of negotiations of perspective.

Bill Meyer, Dusted In Exile

“Flautist Sabine Vogel provides the many layers of glue that hold together this fascinating foray into the often thorny shadow lands bordering improvisation and composition. There's nothing new about exploring this terrain; many have done it, employing diverse methodologies and achieving varying degrees of success. Vogel's two contributions to Another Timbre's Berlin series are as interesting for what they include as for the restraint with which it all is accomplished.

To pigeonhole Vogel as a flautist is, in a subtle way, to do her work an injustice. For her, the flute is an instrument of possibility, as often ready to emit a tone as a guttural rasp or a meditative flutter. Along similarly exploratory lines, the present disc might be divided into external and internal environments. "Luv" is a study in environmental contrast, bridging the gaps between multiple public and private worlds of experience, examining both with a powerful microscope. If we begin in a fairly open space where plenty of ambience allows each sound to live and move in its own space, we can just as easily move into places of almost no action or externality, as happens nearly halfway through the piece; we are placed in a windy and watery no-time of closely captured but soft timbral transformations, movement across the stereo spectrum providing no actual sense of environment, each sound existing on its own terms and barely breaking the silence's amniotic surface. The members of the Landscape Quartet accompany Vogel on this psychedelic journey. While the recordings were made over two years, they are interwoven seamlessly throughout this examination of outer and inner extremes.

The second piece, "Kopfuberwelle," would not exist as we hear it without the reverberant environment bolstering it, but the various flute and pipe-organ interactions are still recorded with extraordinary attention to detail and perspective. Indeed, it is the sense of space that is palpable before the first high-register whistles begin to trace their knotted paths. Constantly morphing and often microtonal wisps of pitch and timbre bloom against the reflective backdrop of drone and overtone that only a pipe-organ can achieve, all courtesy of Chris Abrahams. The piece keeps it's momentum, the opening C, or thereabouts, gradually gaining upper structures and lower extensions before disappearing, with only its implications apparent in the deepening network of tone and breath. Through it all, Vogel's flutes provide layers of commentary as the sounds slowly initiate, develop and fade. As with many Another Timbre releases, a meditative surface under which many events bubble and seethe makes this a fascinating listen from start to finish.”

Marc Medwin, Squid’s Ear

“Berlin Series No. 4 is made up of two sections but each part features flutist Sabine Vogel, first solo ("luv") then in duo with Chris Abrahams on pipe organ ("kopfüberwelle").

Solo, yes, but using a wide array of sound sources including field recordings, objects, bansuri flutes, wind harps and, in fact, recordings made with Bennett Hogg on "wind violin" and "water violin". If I'm identifying the sound correctly, the latter is readily discernible here, some sixteen minutes in during a lovely, otherwise very still section. But guessing games are beside the point--this is a finely constructed soundscape, rich in layers but rigorously executed, always commanding attention and appreciation. Flute permeates (including the bansuris) but the environment is very alive with sounds, some ringing, others wafting--a slight tinge of the tropical. Also, odd as it may seem to say, very human sounding; sounds aren't as disembodied as is often the case in works like this, there's a palpable sense of of a person behind the breath sounds, very flesh and blood. Excellent work.

As is the duo with Abrahams, although the sound world is something else entirely. Abrahams creates several layers on the pipe organ, from a low pulsation to sustained, high, reedy tones while Vogel darts between, birdlike. Only because of my exposure immediately prior, I couldn't help but compare this piece to the Obliq tracks from Berlin Series No. 3 (unfair, I know) as there's at least something steady state about each. But, as with "luv", there's an overt, not reticent but also not pushy, human presence here that works marvelously. While clearly heard in Vogel's swooshes, gasps, and exquisite low notes, even Abraham's organ seems to be chuckling at times, providing a deep feeling of warmth. And despite the organ's consistent emission of long lines, there's substantial variation in both his attack and, more so, that of Vogel, who's constantly coming up with one good idea after the other over the course of the piece's almost 40 minutes.

Two fine pieces, very different approaches, both quite beautiful. Recommended.”

Brian Olewnick, Just Outside

“Depuis environ un an, le label another timbre publie également à chaque saison un split consacré à l’echtzeitmuzik, le réductionnisme et les musiques expérimentales (improvisées pour la plupart) à Berlin. Pour le quatrième volume des Berlin series, une pièce composée par Sabine Vogel ainsi qu’un duo improvisé de cette flûtiste en compagnie de Chris Abrahams sont proposés.

Luv est une pièce composée par Sabine Vogel pour le Landscape Quartet dont elle fait partie aux côtés de Bennett Hogg, Stefan Österjö et Matthew Sansom. Il s’agit principalement de l’édition d’enregistrements instrumentaux et environnementaux, et d’improvisations en solo et en duo avec Bennett Hogg. Une pièce très étrange où les flûtes, les bansuris, les hydrophones et les violons forment comme une ambiance environnementale. Il s’agit d’une pièce qui a quelque chose de primitif. Les instruments et les objets utilisés ne résonnent pas comme des objets musicaux, mais comme des objets naturels. On distingue bien les cordes et les vents, ce n’est pas tant le timbre qui est singulier, mais le langage adopté, le phrasé et la structure. Sabine Vogel donne ici à entendre des bouts de phrases éparpillés, chaotiques, incompréhensibles. Et pourtant, les intentions sont perceptibles. C’est ici que je trouve cette pièce primitive, car elle se présente comme une sorte de chaos sonore, mais un chaos d’où on perçoit une multitude d’intentions et de langages. Primitif n’est pas tellement le mot, enfin c’est primitif au sens où la musique semble une reproduction de la nature, des éléments (air et eau surtout), et du langage des animaux. Une reproduction ou plutôt la création d’un écosystème imaginaire et fictif, un écosystème personnel et onirique. Si Sabine Vogel avait vécu durant l’Antiquité, aucun doute qu’elle aurait été condamnée d’hubris, pour cette tentative de créer un monde de toute pièce, de se faire l’égal d’un Dieu créateur en produisant cet écosystème sonore et musical. De mon côté, je la félicite pour cette organisation minutieuse et cette création sensible d’un univers riche, complet, inquiétant parfois, poétique souvent, bestial et primitif par moments, sensible et délicat à d’autres. Sabine Vogel est parvenu à créer un écosystème sonore dense et complexe, un monde vivant et musical unique. Très bon travail.

Quant à kopfüberwelle, il s’agit là d’un duo d’improvisation qui réunit Sabine Vogel à la flûte et Chris Abrahams à l’orgue. Une longue improvisation de 38 minutes enregistrée dans une église à Sydney dans le cadre du festival NOWnow en janvier 2012. Ce duo avait déjà publié un disque il y a environ un an sur le label absinth, un disque que j’avais beaucoup aimé et que j’avais chroniqué sur ce blog. Je renvoie à cette chronique car cette nouvelle improvisation est similaire et aussi réussie. Ce que je disais du premier s’applique donc aussi à cette nouvelle publication. Abrahams & Vogel jouent sur de longues tenues, mais surtout sur le vent et le souffle, sur l’élément fondamental de leur instrument respectif. Si l’orgue est un des instruments les plus imposants qui soient, et la flûte, un des plus légers et aériens, ici, il n’y a plus de différence entre les deux qui se confondent à chaque instant. Et c’est ce que j’admire le plus dans ce duo. Abrahams et Vogel parviennent à confondre deux instruments pourtant très dissemblables. Ils réunissent ces instruments dans un long souffle commun qui forme leur improvisation, un souffle sans début ni fin, un souffle musical sans forme. Le duo propose une improvisation organique où les deux musiciens jouent avec le corps de leur instrument, et surtout avec l’air qui permet à ce corps de devenir musical et sonore. Ce n’est pas vraiment une improvisation qui explore le timbre, c’est une improvisation qui explore le souffle, l’air propulsé par la bouche comme par les soufflets, l’air qui semble sonner dans une vibration unique pour chaque instrument. Une exploration d’une vibration unique et unifiée de l’air d’une église. Abrahams & Vogel ne cherchent pas tant à explorer les textures de leur instrument, mais bien plutôt à explorer LA texture qui leur permet d’agir sur le son de la manière la plus unifiée possible. Et c’est encore une fois remarquable.”

Julien Heraud, Improv-Sphere

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