L'âge de i'oreille cs781









Vocal music continues to be a focus for me: There's just something about the human voice & expression — obviously enough... — but also or especially so in our era of epochal changes, i.e. in relations among humanity, but also between humanity & the broader world. Moreover, what is "voice" in general? Is it simply a matter of individual expression? Or rather, contra neoliberal refrains, is voice always already embedded in a collective (or at its most authentic when embedded in a collective)? And music is indeed especially suited to interrogating such broadly meaningful questions, what with its senses of collective simultaneity, its (potentially) quick & far-flung relationality.... So our artistic era involves, in some sense, a turn to the ear (versus, perhaps, classical Western ocularcentrism, with its imperial gaze from on high...), and that's reflected in the title of a new vocal album from Ute Wassermann (voice, bird whistles, objects) & the Rodrigueses (viola, cello) on Creative Sources, L'âge de l'oreille (recorded in Berlin last November). Wassermann — whose vocal palette is enormous (while being executed precisely) — has attracted my attention for a while, especially since long-time favorite Natura venomous (both recorded & reviewed in 2015), but e.g. more recently (along with Phil Minton) with Speak Easy @Konfrontationen (reviewed here October 2019). And the latter isn't on CS — nor was her most recent release, Strange Songs, a solo album recorded (also) in 2015, yet appearing more recently (on Treader LP) — but L'âge de l'oreille is her fourth album for the label, following also the duo (with Birgit Ulher, trumpet), Radio Tweet (from 2015 again...), as well as the first Speak Easy album, Backchats (2009). Perhaps it's interesting then, but despite so many vocal albums on Creative Sources (which has surely been the most voluminous source for vocalization improv albums over the period...), and of course so many of his own releases in general, Ernesto Rodrigues hasn't played on many albums featuring a vocalist: Some of his large ensemble work, e.g. with VGO & IKB, includes a voice (mostly in the person of Maria Radich) as an instrument in broader textures, but the only smaller ensemble releases are Radical Flowers (from 2021, but not reviewed here, featuring Ligia Liberatori) & Yijing (a "digital only" release from 2018, featuring Liping Ting). Both are quartet albums, both include a brass instrument along with a second string player (also Guilherme for the former, but guitar for the earlier album...), and both are relatively sparse: There's generally a sense of "separate" sounds, i.e. positioned (relative to each other) in a spacious texture involving alternations, contrasts, extended silences, etc. That the voices are paired with brass also suggested a horn-like conception of voice, i.e. externalized as calls, whereas Wassermann's on L'âge de l'oreille comes off rather more like a string instrument: Sounds & timbres interpenetrate, often in close counterpoint between the instruments, yielding a much greater intimacy. There's thus a sense of "interior" conjured by the voice — perhaps even building upon the CS classic Light air still gets dark (with percussion instead of a second string instrument, and with vocalist Duthoit turning to clarinet, i.e. horn, in some significant moments...), i.e. internalizing & interrogating concepts of voice (together with problematizing inside-outside per se... as in "What is really the surface of her body?"). There's thus a close, sometimes intense, relationality conveyed moment-to-moment on L'âge de l'oreille — i.e. yielding a sort of "tightness" to the interaction, pace recent comments about Rune Kitchen (there with more of a "free jazz" vibe, with percussion, but also another great vocal album in this space this year...). And while that album might at times suggest a mythical past, L'âge de l'oreille seems generally more contemporary — despite e.g. a twittering naturalism (pace already Natura venomous itself, there often more metallic in sound...), e.g. a sense of being deep inside a forest.... (But by the end there's indeed a sort of starkness, an unusual feel for emergent landscape, continuing into the "bonus" track — & I don't know what the bonus is about... — such that the general sense of intimacy yields eventually to a sense of distance, and then to an echoing silence....) There's also a sort of timelessness conveyed overall, or at least until the ending (which implies its retroactive history...), i.e. along the lines of some of Ernesto's other recent work (e.g. Aeon & most recently The fleeting nature of time...), in the way that materials recur & cycle, here with a sort of delicate & intimate density. So an eerie dream world comes to be invoked, e.g. as senses of negation per se could be said to fall away from a more generally emergent relationality around the (deconstructed) voice. (One might thus compare to an earlier voice & two-strings trio, Birds Abide reviewed here in January 2014, there more figural & evocative of language per se, sexually suggestive at times, but with inconsistent formal momentum... less transformed, more searching, more collage.) Ernesto & Guilherme do thus "sound like themselves" here in terms of various string figures & sequences, but their trio with Wassermann also rises to another level in its interrogation of voice per se (including via prominent whistles...) together with its interior-exterior dual: I was captivated from the first moment by what can seem a very natural & lively interaction.... Moreover, Wassermann's development of technique & style seems to be reaching a new level of facility, such that given its general pitch flexibility & dynamism, L'âge de l'oreille might well be said to involve basically everything I've sought (i.e. the most compelling features from the other citations here...) in a postimperial voice-in-trio album.... Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts


Ute Wassermann adds a unique expressiveness to this Berlin studio session, bringing her impressive talents as a free improvising vocalist along with her bird calls and objects, providing an unusual yet extremely complementary foil to the intertwined strings of the father/son collaboration of violist Ernesto Rodrigues and cellist Guilherme Rodrigues; idiosyncratically wonderful! (Squidco)