Posted on Mar 27th 2008 01:56 am

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Lothar Ohlmeier/Isambard Khroustaliov: Nowhere

Not Applicable 2008
05 Tracks. 33mins48secs

Nowhere is the first collaboration between Dutch jazz bass clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Lothar Ohlmeier and Isambard Khroustaliov, the alter ego of British experimental musician Sam Britton, who is more commonly known as one half of electronic entity Icarus. Ohlmeier studied music in Hannover and Amsterdam before establishing himself at the forefront of the Dutch improvised music scene. He has since collaborated with a wide range of jazz artists, including pianist Julia Sassoon and drummer Bart van Helsdinger, with whom he formed Azilut! in 2000. Now living in England, Ohlmeier continues to perform all over Europe. Meanwhile, beside his regular stint with Icarus, Sam Britton has been working on solo projects under his Isambard Khroustaliov guise, releasing a first limited CDR, entitled 8 Minutes, on the band’s imprint, Not Applicable, in 2002, followed by a collaborative effort with Italian-born percussionist Maurizio Ravalico, Five Loose Plans, in 2006.

The fruit of three years of work, the five tracks presented here, culled from recordings made during a residency at the IRCAM in Paris and at various music festivals across Europe, demonstrate the increasing connections between traditional improvised music and modern forms. While similar collaborations have been flourishing in recent years, that of Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden and jazz drummer and percussionist Steve Reid being the most high profile, Ohlmeier and Britton create here a rich and vibrant sonic space within which they freely feed from each other. Ohlmeier’s clarinet is the main focal element throughout, in turn floating high above the sonic backdrop or simple source component for Britton’s intricate constructions. It is as if every possible sound had been extracted from the instrument, from its most common to its most visceral. The clickety-clicks of the keys, the surplus air escaping through the tone holes, the breathing of the wood become as many structural elements for Britton, who creates here a tapestry as finely detailed and diaphanous as the wind chime-like drapes crafted with Icarus in their wonderfully poetic I Tweet The Birdy Electric album.

Here though, it is the organic nature of the instrument that commends attention. Both through Ohlmeier’s elegant flourishes and variations and Britton’s infinitesimal renderings, the clarinet comes to life, erupts in multiple forms, circles above and lingers below, lives deep within and far out, with only occasional external sounds (a prepared piano, most notably, on After Sunrise and Dusk as well as furtive found sounds) to widen the core soundscapes. The level of symbiosis between the two musicians is such that the boundaries of their respective interactions is at times blurred, but even when the roles are clearly defined, the work remains dense, coherent, and of very high standard, making this record an unmissable experience.


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