Microtonal, chromatic interface is obvious on Proxemics, even if oscillating and shrill signal processing from Hauf’s sine tone and Hess’s electronics are more obvious. So are individual reed and piano strategies that reference Free Jazz. “Social”, the shortest track, contrasts straightforward tenor saxophone split tones backed by piano comping and drum top spanks. As Juan alternates her output between marimba-like string plucks and tremolo keyboard runs, puffing saxophone and clarinet air expelling maintain the track’s fragile equilibrium. Cascading and continuous harmonium washes on “Personal” similarly bring forth razzing sibilates from Jackson plus strident no-mouthpiece body toots from Hauf’s horn.
This combination of austere friction, moderated lyricism and near-ambient electronic synthesis is expanded to its fullest on the more than 29½ -minute “Public”. While the electronic shimmies often produce an unyielding ostinato as the horn men’s slurs slide into one another, there are still enough obvious jagged edges to keep the track lively. Among the standout signs are Juan’s clattering piano keys and tickling minimalist note patterns; bell-ringing and sequence-shattering from the percussionist’s raps and rolls; plus key percussion, mouthpiece whistling and balanced tongue slaps from the saxophonists.
With a mixture of European concepts and American know-how, Hauf and company maintain individual expression among the harmonies and rhythms of extended group expression. Both sessions make an impression and the textural attribute of either band could be advantageously developed by Hauf for further sound explorations.
Nice to see Boris Hauf out and about again, on his first “real” album since 2006’s Krom (hatOLOGY), the fourth (last? I sincerely hope not) disc with his EAI supergroup Efzeg. As you might expect, the music’s moved on a bit since then:Proxemics started off as a recording of a concert at Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio in April last year – featuring Hauf on tenor and soprano sax with fellow hornblower Keefe Jackson (tenor sax and contrabass clarinet), Steven Hess (see above!) on percussion and electronics and Judith Unterpertinger aka Juun on piano – which Hauf took back to Berlin, where he added sinewaves, field recordings and, intriguingly, harmonium. The result is odd – particularly that harmonium – but curiously engaging: this is music constantly in search of itself, often unable, maybe unwilling, to decide where it wants to go or what parameters it ought to explore. Improvisation, quoi. The added material, instead of forming a harmonic background for the live music to slip comfortably into (you could be forgiven for thinking that the “A” in EAI stands for “Ambient” at times) unsettles, disorients, recontextualises. Quiet though it is for the most part, this music imposes itself: things stick out, even at low volume, and often frustrate as much as they please. But I like my improv frustrating, as you know. If you do too, you’ll like this. –Dan Warburton
Proxemics is the work of four musicians frequently coming to Chicago, or living there, which is why they were able to record this album in April 2010 at the Experimental Sound Studio. Therefore one finds here two winds answering each other (?), Boris Hauf (tenor and soprano saxophone, sine tones, and harmonium) and Keefe Jackson (contrabass clarinet and tenor saxophone) in the same way Steve Hess on drums and electronics, and finally Juun on piano. The instrumental structure is nothing original, two winds, a piano and drums, one could believe almost a jazz ensemble, but it’s above all the usage of the instruments and the form of the pieces which is innovative, even surprising.
The atmosphere is totally calm during these 45 minutes, it is the same almost meditative most of the time. The quartet deploys long sheets without pulse, sleek sheets which transform the time duration entirely subjectively, in the same way long periods where all the interest lies in the interaction between the different musical ideas of an often obstinate character. This is to say, the playing of the instrumentalists is extremely powerful and the ambiance is exceptionally clearly heard and strong, toward and in spite of the considerable interest exhibited by the textures and timbres. Again more wonderful, the melodic lines don’t hesitate to surge and bring to us a torrent of emotions, which elevate all the abstract character in this study of the interaction between the musicians, interaction which, in spite of what we have become used to hearing, can also pass for concrête melodies. It is above all the attack of the saxophones who amaze with their power, clear attacks, repeated rapidly after some long intervals, but also the melodic phrases and the rhythmic outlines (sketches?) that Steve Hess maintain most of the time in the embryonic state. It is also necessary to note with what a delicacy and sense of space Juun gets timidly scattered arpeggios and buzzing on the piano. But also, the use of electronics by Hauf and Hess which flirts closer to the edge of drone than musique concrête and field recordings, all as the winds are easily able to pass from a melodic phrase to some reductionist extended techniques (breaths, slaps). The more surprising, is that with all these elements, the quartet doesn’t spill neither in abstraction nor in surrealist collage. There are on the contrary a profound cohesion all through the length of the disc and much linearity during each piece, because each idea is maintained until it is worn out, not formally, but above all emotionally. A little bit as if each musical idea was rising up in the collective consciousness of the quartet when the preceding one wasn’t making any more substance with the emotions of the collective as with those of the listener. (???)
Three improvisations very coherent and cordial (warm), full of varied and sensitive emotions, which knew how to combine formal research in timbre, texture, and above all the interactions between the different instrumental and formal elements, with amazing power and vehicular force particularly by the melodic lines but equally and above all by the textures themselves. Recommended!
Translation: anonymous :)
Proxemics est l’oeuvre de quatre musiciens habitués à venir à Chicago, ou y résidant, ce pourquoi ils ont pu enregistré cet album en avril 2010 à l’Experimental Sound Studio. On y retrouve donc deux vents répartis chacun sur une enceinten, Boris Hauf (saxophones ténor et soprano, sinetones et harmonium) et Keefe Jackson (clarinette contrebasse et saxophone ténor) ainsi que Steve Hess à la batterie et à l’électronique, et enfin Juun au piano. La formation instrumentale n’a rien d’original, deux soufflants, un piano et une batterie, on pourrait presque croire à une formation jazz, mais c’est surtout l’usage des instruments et la forme des pièces qui est innovante, voire surprenante.
L’atmosphère est globalement calme durant ces 45 minutes, elle est même presque méditative la plupart du temps. Le quartet déploie de longues nappes sans pulsations, des nappes lisses qui transforment la durée en temps entièrement subjectif, ainsi que de longues phases où tout l’intérêt réside dans l’interaction entre les différentes idées musicales au caractère souvent obstiné. Ceci-dit, le jeu des instrumentistes est extrêmement puissant et l’ambiance est exceptionnellement tendue et forte, envers et malgré l’intérêt considérable porté aux textures et aux timbres. Encore plus étonnant, des lignes mélodiques n’hésitent pas à surgir et à nous emporter dans un torrent d’émotions, ce qui enlève tout caractère abstrait à cette étude sur l’interaction entre les musiciens, interaction qui, malgré ce qu’on a l’habitude d’entendre, peut aussi passée par des mélodies concrètes. Ce sont surtout les attaques des saxophones qui étonnent par leur puissance, des attaques franches, répétées rapidement après de longs intervalles, mais aussi les phrasés mélodiques et les esquisses rythmiques que Steve Hess maintient la plupart du temps à l’état embryonnaire. Il faudrait aussi noter avec quelle délicatesse et quel sens de l’espace Juun parvient à disséminer timidement quelques arpèges et bourdons au piano. Mais aussi, l’utilisation d’électroniques par Hauf et Hess qui flirtent aussi bien du côté du drone que de la musique concrète et du field-recording, tout comme les vents peuvent facilement passer d’un phrasé mélodieux à des techniques étendues réductionnistes (souffles, slaps). Le plus surprenant, c’est qu’avec tout ces éléments, le quartet ne verse ni dans l’abstraction ni dans le collage surréaliste. Il y a au contraire une profonde cohésion tout au long du disque et beaucoup de linéarité durant chaque pièce, car chaque idée est maintenue jusqu’à son épuisement, non pas formel, mais surtout émotionnel. Un peu comme si chaque idée musicale surgissait de la conscience collective du quartet lorsque la précédente ne faisait plus corps avec les émotions du collectif comme de l’auditeur.
Trois improvisations très cohérentes et chaleureuses, pleines d’émotions variées et sensibles, qui savent allier recherches formelles sur le timbre, les textures, et surtout les interactions entre les différents éléments instrumentaux et formels, avec une puissance et une force étonnantes véhiculées notamment par les lignes mélodiques mais également et surtout par les textures elles-mêmes. Recommandé!
The pick of this particular litter, to these ears. I hadn’t heard Hauf in quite some time, though I have fond memories of the discs he used to send out, willy-nilly, about ten years ago. He’s added sines and harmonium to his tenor and soprano, teaming hear with Hess (drums, electronics), Jackson (contrabass clarinet, tenor) and Juun (piano) for three lush, deep probes. Interesting how well the two reeds work in this context. While they make free use of what has come to be heard as “traditional” breath tones, they freely drift into standard sounds and even, as heard some 15 minutes into the opening track, a kind of mournful melodic line that wouldn’t have been so out of place in the Garbarek of “Afric Pepperbird” (1970). And it works. The shortish second cut is even, to my ears, more directly referential to that once-fine Norwegian, sounding like it could have been an outtake from “Tryptikon”–very tasty, too, I have to say. Surprising they could still manage to make something viable from this material, at this date, though it’s Juun’s prepared piano, an element not heard in those early ECM days, that proves to be the winning ingredient. The harmonium appears on the final piece, a soft, semi-droning work that shifts every few minutes, from low throbs to hollow winds back to harmonium drones with semi-rhythmic, light percussion. The horns return, undisguised and again, manage not only not to irritate but to gibe before the wheezy drone returns to take things out.Excellent recording.
When you’ll listen to this release signed by these four talented improv musicians, who met each other as they worked together at the annual music festival Chicago Sound Map where they discovered they had some common interests in harmony, texture and rhythm explorations related to the musical possibilities enabled by collective improvisation which led them to Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago in April 2010 where they recorded this sonic stuff as part of the concert belonging to the Outer Ear series, you could easily enhance the listening experience they recorded through a possible research of similarities between their performance and the interesting matters related to the mentioned discipline, proxemics; they even quoted the diagram by proxemics’most eminent scholar (and founder), the American anthropologist Edward T.Hall to name their sets. According to this diagram, based on some concentric circles known as “reaction bubbles” whose radius represents the spacial distance between two people, social distance is correlated with physical one so that he distinguished intimate distance (for closer interactions), personal distance (friendly or familiar interactions), social distance (being between already acquainted people) and public distance (for public speaking between almost unknown people), whose measure should be strictly related to cultures, which state when an interaction could be too intrusive or stand-offish. The beings whose interactions seems to be studied are tenor and sopranosax played by Boris Hauf (recorded on right channel) and contrabassclarinet and tenorsax played by Keefe Jackson (recorded on left channel), whereas Juun’s piano, Hauf’s sinetonees and harmonium and Steven Hess’ fuzzy experiments on drums and electronics look like acting as spectators writing notes on a sketch book or alternatively as choreographers of the dances, moved by the elastic forces getting stronger and stronger. In the first track, named Public, the longest one, the above-mentioned interacing sonic elements sound tracing completely different melodic paths, climb on discordant scales and sometimes look like dozing till the moment (after 22 minutes) when a sort of electronic foggy quiver looks like dropping the curtain on gaps whose voids had been filled by estranging or sinister emotional sets. In the second track, Social – the shortest one -, the magnet reducing distances seems to be breath and the frenzy percussive tinkling – mainly made up of high frequencies hits and feverish piano pulses -, whereas the final track, Personal (featuring some great drum rolling by Steven Hess!), sounds warmer than the previous ones since the very first seconds, thanks to the long-lasting hypnotical sound of an harmonium, but the general feeling of this bizarre but pretty recording will suggest the listener those two interacting elements aren’t going to encounter even if they get chorally closer and closer.
Rated: 4stars out of 5
Review by: Vito Camarretta
The Watchful Ear
Not sure what to make of tonight’s CD. It is a quartet recording recently released on the Creative Sources label named Proxemics by Boris Hauf (Tenor and soprano sax, plus sidetones and harmonium) Steven Hess (drums and electronics) Keefe Jackson (Contrabassclarinet and another tenor sax) and somebody named Juun playing piano. There are three tracks, each studio recordings from early 2010. I have to admit to only being aware of the music of Hauf and Hess before, and I don’t even know if Juun is male or female, with every review I can find of this music online also tactfully avoiding any indication! Not that any of this matters. Its a bit of an oddball album though, the first track in particular, named Public is really hard to try and categorise and never really goes where you think it might. Essentially this piece, the longest on the disc by far at almost half an hour is vaguely linear in structure, with the drums, electronics and occasional hissing reeds forming a kind of soft, often textural layer over which the acoustic instruments, mainly the reeds, but occasionally the piano wander in a more forward, not quite conventional manner. This sounds somewhat run of the mill I know, but its hard to describe this music accurately. In places the horns (I am counting the bass clarinet as a horn here) are played very conventionally indeed, with quite loud parps, splatters and even semi melodic lines burning their way across some of the track
It is the combination of some really very beautiful sounds in places, with the familiar, jazzy use of the horns that makes this one so unusual. The last minutes of Public are particularly wonderful. After the sax and clarinet have ceased interjections, a kind of hissing stream of near silent stillness appears, with what sounds like a field recording of wind in trees whispering past, complete with the occasional car horn in the distance. Its the way that this ever so subtle section follows the jazzy sections that makes this disc unusual for me. The field recording (assuming it is one) probably comes from Hess, who as part of Haptic has been involved with some stunningly beautiful work of this kind in recent years, but when placed alongside the tinkling of what I think is a prepared piano, and the alternate hissing and wailing of the sax and clarinet it all sounds oddly disconnected, but in a manner that isn’t displeasing at all. It just sounds unusual.
The second track, lasting just under six minutes is more conventionally structured, with the percussion coming more to the fore, providing a framework for the others to build a vaguely drone based structure around. The final track sees Hauf introduce the harmonium, which wheezes and quivers its way in and out of a lethargic, softly throbbing pattern set up by the others that seems to rotate and repeat itself slowly. The first track makes the album for me, and perhaps I would have been just as happy with that piece alone, with maybe its closing few minutes extended out further, so giving more weight to its contrast with the wail of the horns, but overall this is a nice album, and at its height really quite different indeed.
The Watchful Ear
On Proxemics, released almost simultaneously with the other album [Boris Hauf Sextet Next Delusion], we find Hauf back in the company of Steven Hess on drums and electronics, Keefe Jackson on contrabass clarinet and tenor sax, and Juun on piano.
Even if the overall atmosphere is as dark as on “Next Delusion”, the touch is lighter, possibly because there is no real percussive sound, more transparent, more open. The minimalism is quite strong, with long single-toned lines, somehow a little flexed to increase intensity and with powerful interaction between the four musicians : slow, feeding off each other, adding a touch here and there, building the fragile pieces with caution. Despite the linear minimalism, the music remains highly unpredictable, full of mystery and tension.
Juun’s piano adds a lot, from percussive moments, over scraping sounds and harp-like playing to real piano phrases, even if repetitive. On the last track Hauf plays harmonium, laying a sonic foundation for the whole piece, which in a way evolves differently, with the various instruments, and especially the saxes playing actual phrases, creating a crisp and bright ending to an excellent album.