CHARLOTTE HUG

NEULAND

EMANEM 4085

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CHARLOTTE HUG viola
 

1 - DELIRIUM - 10:43
2 - House of Detention: WET - 4:44
3 - House of Detention: DWELLER - 2:40
4 - House of Detention: QUARRY - 3:03
5 - House of Detention: DWELL ON - 2:18
6 - House of Detention: WOOD - 3:09
7 - House of Detention: DWELLERS - 5:43
8 - House of Detention: FLOW - 6:13
9 - House of Detention: ROTATION - 6:55
10 - House of Detention: PULSATION - 4:26
11 - House of Detention: SIGNS - 2:18
12 - NO LAND - 9:08

All digital studio recordings made in Zürich
by Charlotte Hug - 2001 December & 2002 August
Total time 61:38

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

Charlotte Hug is a violist, an improviser, and a performer, who has combined a classical musician's background with a training in scenic design at the University of Art and Design, Zürich. Her work is shot through with dialogic processes, each of which is enacted in its own particular dimension. There is for example the spatial dimension: Charlotte Hug has played in the icy caverns of the Rhône Glacier as well as in an acoustically insulated S & M torture chamber, and has pursued her musical researches in both of these emotionally charged sites. And, despite her use of such idiosyncratic inventions as the 'soft bow' (a bow whose hairs have been rendered completely slack), it is the space in which she performs that is allowed to provide the form for her improvisations.

She also enters into dialogue with visual signs. Charlotte Hug's improvisations and her so-called sonicons serve as the associative and, indeed, seismographic underpinning for her further improvisations. Thus the musical identity of her performance pieces grows out of a dialogue between the visual and the acoustic.

Then there is her dialogue with electronics. Charlotte Hug experiments with the possibilities of electronic music, including both canned and live electronics in her compositions. But although the range of sounds on the current CD is influenced and inspired by electronics, the music on NEULAND is in fact an homage to acoustic performance, an effort to exhaust its potential and to expand its horizons.

NEULAND: during a stay in London, Charlotte Hug joined the London Improvisers Orchestra and threw herself into an intense encounter with improvised music. In order to process the abundance of material produced by the experience, itself both familiar and strange, she retreated to an uncanny site of inspiration, the House of Detention, a former subterranean prison in the middle of London. Its maze-like system of tunnels, doors and chambers, dimly lit and dripping with damp, was to become both her prison and her refuge: the place presented itself as an incubator for new improvisations, as well as for Delirium and House of Detention, two new pieces. Here Charlotte Hug also pioneered the technique known as 'wetbowing', moistening the hairs of her bow so as to produce a new range of sounds.

The solo improvisation on NEULAND circles thematically around the unknown and the new, that which was already there but had not yet been discovered; it is the union of the unconscious and the conscious.

NEULAND tells of the quest for form and identity, a quest that takes its pilgrims on a road of many turns, many forks, many doorways to unknown rooms. To Charlotte Hug, improvising means travelling this road, knocking on doors and exploring new spaces. NEULAND is thus a musico-spatio-visual adventure, a voyage into a world of brand new sounds and noises. Its third part, No Land, represents a break with the musical introspection of Delirium and House of Detention, the first two parts. While Delirium plays on the experience of surplus and confusion, and House of Detention constitutes an immersion in unconscious process, a retreat into an internal dialogue, No Land is Charlotte Hug's attempt to extend the borders: as space upon space unfolds, the music allows its audience a personal voyage into terra nova. 'What I am trying to do is create imaginary spaces,' says Charlotte Hug. While she herself may have been inspired by actual, existent spaces, however, her music uses a whole range of sounds - clear, stable and multilayered, unstable, percussive and mercurial rhythms - to produce imaginary spaces, always in dialogue with sounds she has already produced, with the score as written, with her instrument, the objects she uses to produce resonance, the acoustics of the room in which she is performing.

There comes a moment in which the piece finds its own identity, 'its temperature, its sense of time, its own outlines'. That is precisely the moment at which Charlotte Hug steps before the public, all of which means that the tracks on NEULAND represent the latest state of her improvisational work, as well as of her research. 'Is this musical performance? Is it a composition or is it an improvisation? It's the intersection of all three,' says Charlotte Hug.

NADINE OLONETZKY (2002)
Translated by RAFAËL NEWMAN

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"More than warmly recommended: indispensable!"

GUSTAVE CERUTTI - IMPROJAZZ 2003

"Though classically trained, Hug clearly gravitates toward the kind of non-idiomatic Emanem loves to sponsor. It's fantastic that she has begun to carve out her niche as a solo performer because frankly, though I've been much impressed with her playing elsewhere, this is the finest thing I've heard Hug do. The majority of the disc is comprised of the House of Detention suite, inspired by an underground prison. Hug is apparently quite attracted by odd performance spaces or settings such as this one (even though the album here was recorded in studio). If it inspires the kind of wondrous music heard here, someone donate your frequent flier miles to Ms. Hug. The suite is quite a journey, commencing with the near-silent buzzing of Wet, through the rough slashing of Dweller, the drone of Dwell On, the anguished whining of Wood, all the way to extraordinarily harsh tracks such as Rotation, which sounds like a pair of heavy boxes being dragged along a sandy floor (though there are light pizzicato interjections which spoil the image). Hug uses wet and slackened bows to achieve some extraordinary effects, and she seemingly tortures the instrument's body too; but she is capable of great legato playing as well, at times creating a dizzying effect akin to a Morton Feldman piece being played very quickly and backwards. There is so much going on in most of these tracks - from dense washes of harmonics and overtones, lots of mad glisses and double-stops, to sudden silences - that she creates the impression of a chorus effect or multi-tracking (neither of which are used here). A radical but winning disc."

JASON BIVINS - CADENCE 2003

"During her recent stay in London, Swiss violist Charlotte Hug discovered the House of Detention, a damp and claustrophobic subterranean prison that inspired the ten-movement suite of the same name that forms the central part of this extraordinary solo album (her second). No stranger to odd performance space (she's also played in ice caves in the Rhône glacier and soundproofed torture chambers), Hug uses her surroundings as a means of exploring the acoustic reality of her instrument, by reinterpreting her own improvised drawings ('Sonicons') made on site - with extraordinary results. Incredible as it may seem, there is no multitracking or electronic jiggery-pokery on NEULAND: instead, Hug, like Greek cellist Nikos Veliotis (also resident in London until recently), has gone right back to basics - the bow. On Delirium she uses a 'softbow' (Veliotis calls his variant a 'Bachbow'), with a special lock on the frog that allows her to play all four strings of the instrument simultaneously. Elsewhere, she uses a 'twistbow' and a 'wet bow' (pretty self-explanatory, but you should hear the sounds they produce), and various preparations and scordatura (different tunings), but the majority of the amazing sounds she produces originate in standard string techniques pushed to the limit. Authentic extended technique, if you will.

All of this might sound rather dry and technical, but the music that results is spellbinding, visceral and disturbing. In the brief history of improvised music there have been plenty of great solo bass albums, and a handful of top-notch solo violin albums (Michael Goldstein and Phil Durrant's work comes to mind, though for sheer extremes only Polly Bradfield's long deleted Parachute album comes close to this), but so far the sonic potential of the viola has remained unexplored. Not any more. Forget the dreary anaemic twiddling of Mat Maneri - NEULAND is best goddamn thing that's happened to the viola since Berlioz's Harold In Italy."

DAN WARBURTON - PARISTRANSATLANTIC 2003

"One of Emanem's strongest releases of the century so far."

DAN WARBURTON - PARISTRANSATLANTIC 2007

"In order to make her own niche in the world of European free improvisation, Charlotte Hug has developed new bowing techniques on the viola. She has found sounds that, while one hundred per cent acoustic in nature, evoke the microscopic textures of crackling analogue electronic improvisation (think Voice Crack, in particular). Hug often performs in semi-electronic contexts, but to this day her most convincing music has been acoustic, whether in Tony Wren's Quatuor Accorde or in trio with Maggie Nicols and Caroline Kraabel. NEULAND supersedes all of her previous efforts, even her first solo album MauerrauM WandrauM. Her techniques, which involve moistening the hairs of the bow or loosening them to the point where they offer no resistance and leave no space between string and wood, have come to full fruition. Focused on sound and texture rather than pitch or rhythm, her music fascinates because of its unheard-of sounds - or repulses for the same reason. But repeated listens reveal beyond the novelty and apparent abstract nature of her improvisations a wide range of emotions (some very crude) that speak to us in a gripping way. The 40-minute suite House of Detention (in 10 parts) presents a number of well-defined and developed ideas that showcase Hug's original playing without making a demonstration out of it. The music remains intimate, hardly escaping the artist's personal sphere, but it doesn't have the sparseness of Berlin reductionism or any approach favouring silence as sound. The suite is bookended by two 10-minute pieces, both more extroverted and at times verging on the frantic. NEULAND is a landmark in Hug's career and comes highly recommended."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2003 - One of "my 10 favourite albums in avant-garde music for 2003"

"Dark, Powerful Solo Improv.

Much of NEULAND was inspired by Charlotte Hug's trip to what used to be a prison, a system of damp tunnels underneath London. If anyone ever makes a movie that's set there - ceilings dripping, doors creaking, inmates screaming and banging their fists against the bars - NEULAND would be the perfect soundtrack.

Developments in electronics have already allowed musicians like Joritt Dijkstra, Sylvia Hallett and Tyondai Braxton to make improvisation-based solo music that as rich and complete as most recordings featuring full bands. Incredibly, Hug does the same thing without any overdubs or processing. Unlike many improvisers making solo albums, Hug doesn't sound like she's performing the same way she would in a trio or a quartet. In fact, NEULAND sounds so finished, so cinematic and colourful, that it's hard to imagine what anyone else could possibly add to it. Whereas many solo improv albums ask the listener to accept them as solo recordings, NEULAND asks the listener only to accept it as a recording. NEULAND isn't simply a showcase for Hug's technique or her phrasing, but a rich, powerful record that screams and cries and evokes.

Hug plays the viola, an instrument that's usually best suited to single note lines and simple chords. Here, though, Hug often creates a variety of effects at once. She often uses a special bow with which she can play all four strings simultaneously, allowing her to fill more space than would usually be possible using only one viola. She also uses a number of preparations and extended technique effects, often playing several different kinds of sounds at the same time. When Hug is playing noises that resemble those typically made by string instruments, NEULAND often sounds like a string orchestra.

Elsewhere, Hug scrapes, knocks and wheezes away, inspired by not only the textural possibilities of electronic music, but also the avant garde's attempts (like Krzysztof Penderecki's Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima or Helmut Lachenmann's Gran Torso) to stretch the boundaries of string instruments. Whereas Penderecki's and Lachenmann's experiments were closely controlled, however, Hug's are more open-ended and loose, guided mostly by her graphic notations and the spur of the moment. Which returns us to the fact that NEULAND was mostly improvised, and there isn't much solo improvised music that sounds like this. Its dark textures and creative performances make NEULAND one of the best improv albums released so far this year."

CHARLIE WILMOTH - DUSTED 2003

"Anyone who deems digital recording inert simply hasn't heard this marvelous recording. The bristly scrape of wetted bow (she loosens and dampens the horsehair to obtain new sounds) on strings, the thwack of hand on wood, the reverberations of sound escaping the hole, Hug's captured them all and reproduced them with a palpable presence that is key to NEULAND's success. The liner notes indicate that this music is a mixture of improvisation and composition inspired by the dank confines of a disused prison, but methodology only gets you far - this wonderful disc delivers the goods. What keeps me coming back to it is Hug's compelling organization of a wide range of vivid sounds, from comely whistles and sighs to coarse groans and hysterical squiggles. They can be quite harsh, but never ever ugly, and often quite lovely. In my line of work, I hear plenty of records that I play, appreciate, then file away. This is one I've already played again and again."

BILL MEYER - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2003

"Charlotte Hug plays viola, which in itself is a wonderful instrument. Sustaining more than a hour of solo improvisation could be a very difficult task for anyone, but Hug has a 'light' quality in her playing that transforms everything - even the most difficult sections - in a kind of graphic gesture always perfectly comprehensible. There are parts in this record that really transported me in a magic realm, particularly when glissandos or slightly dissonant chords are used in spectacular fashion: at that point one can't avoid being kidnapped in a sort of incantation. Elsewhere, the sounds get more 'concrete' and the instrument gets treated like a source of several noises...or silences, if you will. Technique and maturity go together in yet another important release by this most fundamental English label."

MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2003

"Charlotte Hug (pronounced Hoog) herself is a dramatic performer, strikingly beautiful, with flowing blonde locks. That in itself can be a problem, as a recording alone can fail to convey the essence of a performance. NEULAND, though, is a studio recording of Hug's solo viola and certainly does avoid that potential pitfall; the music here is full of drama and needs nothing to enhance or complement the experience. It consists of three tracks, one of which, House of Detention, is subdivided into ten parts. The opening track Delirium features the technique developed by Hug called 'wetbowing', literally moistening the hairs of her bow. The resulting sounds can be far more brutal than one would expect, but there are also very poignant, moving periods. Hug is certainly not seeking to build or sustain a consistent mood; this is rapidly changing music containing great contrasts.

In the past, Hug has experimented with electronics in her compositions and, although all the music here was produced acoustically, several passages seem to bear the influence of that, with the recorded sound of the viola easily being mistakable for synthesised sound.

House of Detention is at the heart of the album, consisting of ten relatively short connected pieces. It is named after a dank, supposedly-haunted former underground Victorian prison in Clerkenwell, which Hug used as a retreat while in London. It manages to convey an atmosphere of unease and menace entirely consistent with its title."

JOHN EYLES - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2003

"Charlotte Hug is a brilliant violist, improviser and performer who uses such idiosyncratic inventions as the 'soft bow' (a bow whose hairs have been rendered completely slack). The space in which she performs is allowed to provide the form for her improvisations and the music grows out of a dialogue between the visual and the acoustic."

JOHN PITT - NEW CLASSICS 2003

"Well, I never have heard the music of this amazing musician before. She plays the viola with a lot of technique and inspiration. Here she is extremely spontaneous, creating improvisational phrases and sounds that amaze because of their variations and different textural qualities. Here everything is about spontaneity and Charlotte Hug´s sounds are really extreme and at the same time really coherent delivering different moods according to the paths that she wants to explore. This album has over one hour of free improvisation that breaks constantly musical paradigms and stretches boundaries with originality and inspiration. A really good work that will appeal to spontaneous music lovers."

FEDERICO MARONGIU - MUSIC EXTREME 2003

 

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