TRIO SOWARI: THIRD ISSUE - REVIEWS
The title doesn't lie--this is the third release from this fine trio, the first since 2008. I'm not sure if the gap is intentional or not, but they sound as fine as ever. Phil Durrant (modular and software synthesizers), Bertrand Denzler (tenor saxophone) and Burkhard Beins (percussion and objects) carve out a very unique sound area in the world of free improvisation, one that's quite full and colorful while avoiding over-satiation.
The opener, "Gravitation" lurches right into things--heavy synth, deep, clucking tenor and a range of brushes and bangs hurtle the listener into an active sound-world, filled with movement but also with significant space between objects. Denzler has never shied away from the saxophone-ness of his tenor, managing the difficult feat of incorporating it into a free-improv context without toting much unnecessary and distracting jazz baggage. He tends to keep his tomes low (by no means always) and balances reedy passages with extended techniques. More importantly, in music like this where "quiet" isn't as much an issue as elsewhere, he chooses his moments expertly. As do the others. Beins has long been a master at this and his brilliance is clearly in evidence. Durrant might be more the wild card; his subtlety is such that the non-concentrating listener might bypass him entirely, though his sounds are often the true glue binding matters. "Suspension" is about the drone, beginning with a wonderful low tone (Durrant, I think), soon joined by Denzler approximating the tone, generating flutters of interference. Eventually, Beins adds some slow, regular cymbal taps that are as perfectly appropriate as they are unexpected. This is followed by a brief palate cleanser of sorts, "Exploration", a set of almost discontinuous attacks that nonetheless manages to cohere quite well. "Levitation", the closer, tries to bring these disparate approaches into a single 9-minute pieces, utilizing drones (here, bowed metal), fluctuating tenor, and higher pitched synthesized hums. There's great elasticity here, a stretching and warping of fabric, the cloth smooth here, gnarly there. Billowing waves emanate outwards, blanketing one's ears--an excellent end to another fine, fine release from this under-recorded trio.
- Brian Olewnick, Just Outside -
Impossible to believe that ten years have slipped away from Trio Sowari's previous release, the impressive Shortcut on Jacques Oger's Potlatch imprint. Phil Durrant, Burkhard Beins and Bertrand Denzler embody the type of unyielding unit that could be entitled to produce a new album every six months, and I'd be perfectly content. However, authentic wisdom is nourished by a profound respect of silence; what is told after that silence becomes consequential in a process of real development. Accordingly, Third Issue may break a lengthy intermission in terms of discography, but its characteristics and meanings enfold all the experiences occurred in the meantime to the players, their intuitions now enriched by additional sagacity.
The coalescence of synthesizers, percussion and saxophone also delineates the individual textural settings. The dissimilarity of the sonic waves is of course evident, yet the multiplex integrity of the emerging music is (forgive the commonplace) a thing of beauty. The group ideally promotes the "let the sounds dictate the pace" theory; better still if the participants share a vision, which in the case of TS coincides with the term "improvement". Nary a moment in these four tracks contains formularized sonorities; the organic qualities are directly proportional to a penetrating intricacy which, in turn, enhances the sympathetic listener's responsiveness. This happens notwithstanding the artists' proficiency in melting voices and merging sources. For example, try and separate synthetic and acoustic emissions at the beginning of "Suspension"; as a severe drone inexorably advances we picture a sequence of wordless events, a concatenation of "frequency frames" somehow flowing into a bigger undercurrent. This piece, though, is an exception of sorts given that the foremost "Sowari sound" derives from a hands-on investigation of the spaces between innumerable dynamic turns. Ultimately, tangible matters and vivid timbres become deprived of an owner: maintaining the ongoing flux is the rule of thumb. The musicians always manage to do this, with results often verging on the amazing.
Intense concentration and earnest sharing during a performance give birth to a loss of the self, especially when the only relevant science - that of vibrational propagation - is taught with such austere modesty. Strike another five-star record for these gentlemen, in the hope that I won't be already departed when the next chapter is published.
- Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes -
As its title hints, Third Issue follows on from Trio Sowari's two previous albums, 2005's Three Dances and 2008's ShortCut, both released on Potlatch. Despite a label change to Mikrotron, the personnel remains unchanged - Denzler on tenor saxophone, Burkhard Beins on percussion and Phil Durrant on synths - for this album which was studio-recorded in Berlin in July 2016. Although there is a considerable gap since their previous album together, straight from the start the three are right back together. Their music in this trio has always been characterised by their ability to listen to one another, allied to the restraint of their playing, which allows ample space for each of them to play and be heard clearly; they fit together like pieces of a jigsaw. It is also part of the trio's ongoing evolution, as in 2016 Durrant was still using a laptop in addition to modular synthesiser whereas now he no longer does.
Across four tracks, ranging in length from under four minutes to almost fifteen, the energy level and mood vary considerably, giving each piece its own very different character, as reflected in their titles. So, the twelve-minute "Suspension" features a rather sinister modulated drone throughout that would not be out of place on the soundtrack of a low budget slasher movie - maybe a future path for the trio to consider? In contrast, the shortest track, "Exploration," features sounds that could have come from field recordings made in some distant land but were actually played in the studio. Very impressive.
- John Eyles, All About Jazz -
Over the past 20 years, Durrant has become one of the more deft exponents of software-generated sound; while this entailed his dispensing with the violin, an instrument on which he had honed a singular voice in the trio with Butcher and Russell and other ensembles, he has created a similar approach emphasizing small fluctuations of pitch and timbre and keen attention to dynamics. Percussionist Burkhard Beins and tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler have complementary sensibilities; subsequently, Trio Sowari has developed a fully integrated ensemble sound that has survived long periods of inactivity over the past 15 years. The LP-length Third Issue is their first album in a dozen years, yet it picks up where their predecessors on Potlatch left off, giving stark, even grating sounds a magnetic property that pulls the listener deeper into the music.
- Bill Shoemaker , Points Of Departure -
It has been a while since I last heard music by Trio Sowari, but I gather
these are very busy people, performing around the globe all the time, so it might take some time before
they meet each other again. Two days in July 2016 in Berlin was enough to get the show on the road
again and recorded four excellent pieces that defy such notions as improvisation, composition, electro-
acoustic music or musique concrete. It is all, perhaps quite rightfully so, quite blurred and as clear-cut
as it could be. But that's how things should be of course. Both Denzler and Beins play their instruments
like they are supposed, i.e. one can recognize them as such, but also use extended different techniques
and approaches to them and make it sound unlike drums or saxophone. Durrant's input here is of
course anyway different than, simply because one doesn't always know what a modular and software
synthesizer is supposed to sound like. It peeps and it cracks, and that's not just Durrant, but something
they are all responsible for and there is some wonderful interaction between all the sounds everyone's
producing. It can be loud, it can be quiet, often within the space of a few seconds, or for extended times,
such as the moody and mysterious piece 'Levitation'; it can be short and abrupt or spaced out, yet
always with a fine dialogue among the players. Every listens, everyone responds or keeps quiet and
when needed there are a quick interference and the conversation changes. This is a fine release and
these men should meet more often.
- Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly -