OLAF RUPP guitar
JOE WILLIAMSON double bass
TONY BUCK percussion
1 - NAUGAHYDE - 33:54
2 - SPANDEX - 23:57
Digital recording made in Berlin
by Olaf Rupp - 2002 September 4
Total time 58:00
All previously unissued
I think the three of us in the trio try to achieve a kind of stillness through density and a certain degree of activity. Like the many complex colours and shadings in a pointillist painting that combine to form an impressionistic image, our playing is often very active and busy, while, in totality, creating a slowly shifting, almost three dimensional texture or soundscape. It could be seen as akin to the optical 3-D pictures that have been popular in the last few years, or the pixels in different resolution of digital photography. Another analogy might be the trio seen as a large quiet organism made up of millions of restless cells all working together to create the whole. I think in this way we achieve a kind of minimal/maximal contrast that I find unique to this trio, one which is certainly different to any other group playing I do.
TONY BUCK (2005)
Three musicians, from three different continents and three different backgrounds, happened to be living in Berlin a few years ago.
Olaf Rupp was born in Saarlouis (near the western edge of Germany) in 1963. As an autodidact at the age of twelve he started to play what we might call today Improvised or Instant Music, and he has always returned there after several excursions into other fields. In the nineties he mainly played electric guitar and his own setup of electronics. He has now come back to the acoustic guitar, developing some traditional playing techniques (like rasgueados, arpeggios and tremolos) in such a way that they can be used for new cluster effects to create density. His use of these sound materials is still influenced by his experience in electronics. Three solo albums have been published on FMP and GROB.
Joe Williamson was born in Vancouver (near the western edge of Canada) in 1970. He studied music at McGill University of Montreal from 1989 to 1990 and then moved to Europe in 1992 where he lived for three years in Amsterdam, six years in Berlin, and is now in London for three years.
Tony Buck was born in Sydney (near the eastern edge of Australia) in 1962. After graduating from the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music, he became very involved in the jazz scene in Australia, often touring with visiting international artists as well as local musicians. Following time spent in Japan, where he formed PERIL with Otomo Yoshihide and Kato Hideki, Tony moved to Europe, and has involved himself in many projects there, including the development of new 'virtual' MIDI controllers at STEIM in Amsterdam. He is probably best known as one third of The Necks.
If nothing else, this CD proves that three such diverse musicians can make superb music together as one.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (2005)
"The trio play without any form of amplification or electronic interference, but their improvisation is so closely-miked that this certainly doesn't result in any delicate acoustic dappling. This is exhaustingly exciting music, without any let-up. It harnesses the thrill of spontaneous ignition. In fact, this album is going to be one of 2005's very best examples of improvised music, so striking are its two extended forays into the world of elaborate density and detailed, accelerated motion.
During the brilliant Naugahyde, the trio sound like they're undergoing a furious catering crisis, a kitchen re-organisation at five times normal speed. They cover a lot of space, with a very flooded, broad sound. Tony Buck's percussive work is a marvellously sustained blur of skin-and-metal tinkering, constantly inventive as he explores timbre, texture and tension at a frightening rate.
He also finds time (and hands) to shake, scrape and seemingly drag large objects across a warehouse floor. Joe Williamson's bass has a gloriously full sound, enveloping the listener as he bows out thick swathes of deepness. Olaf Rupp is constantly flashing out filigree runs, little twists and embellishments. I'd swear that there are shards of Django Reinhardt in there somewhere...
Buck describes the trio's avowed approach in a sleeve note and, as it happens, he's exactly right: the trio's music is busy and compacted, but also operates with the overall effect of a vast, slowly moving plate of sound. It's as if they're using tiny details to build a single entity, like an organic colony of small minds, making up a big intention.
There's an endless joy in scrutinising the sheer variety and vitality of their palette. This trio sound like they know exactly what they're doing at every single moment, full of purposeful detail. The shorter Spandex can't hope to sustain the power of Naugahyde, but it's probably not designed that way, being a more reflective, spacious piece. Here, Rupp, Williamson and Buck are adopting the distant vocabulary of a jazz trio, albeit mutated and scrambled into a new form."
MARTIN LONGLEY - BBC 2005
"Together, they make a quiet, subtly shifting free music that draws heavily on Rupp's highly individual technique and Buck's ability to invest free metre with a sense of overarching order. Williamson is in some respects the least obvious element, but also arguably the most creative, finding stable points in the gravitational tug between his two partners to execute some beautiful playing.
Though no one will need much in the way of metaphor to get a purchase, Buck's analogies with pointillism, 3D imagery and digital pixels are entirely apposite to this music, but he keeps revising the analogy and eventually comes up with 'the trio seen as a large quiet organism made up of millions of restless cells all working together'. That's as close as anyone is going to get. Some of these sounds seem involuntary and galvanic rather than 'performed'. They have an organic unity in diversity that draws powerful logic from just a few stem-cell figures and shapes.
Weird Weapons contains just two long tracks, coming in at 34 and 24 minutes. The titles suggest yet more imagery: modern, flexible fabric that resists the stain of generic obviousness and the rip of analysis. If Emanem remains associated in some minds with archiving British Improv, this should be enough to confirm that Martin Davidson continues to look for fresh new sounds and faithfully delivers them."
BRIAN MORTON - THE WIRE 2005
"This is an acoustic trio that generates high density, low affect music that's profoundly engaging. It's very painterly music, also akin to the teeming detail of abstract expressionist Mark Tobey or the unreadable 'writing' of Cy Twombly. The CD is divided into two long improvisations - the 34 minute Naugahyde and the 24 minute Spandex. It might be fitting to remark that the former is grained (though not apparently artificially) and the second elastic, but the reality is that these are both defining characteristics of the group's music - a skein in which rubbings, scrapes, clicks and rattles can suddenly give way to a sudden virtuosic flurry or a guitar chord as isolated as a country church bell. What the Rupp/Buck/Williamson trio achieves is a collective mind and a kind of dream-state, its intricate web of detail forming luminous abstract tapestries that explore us as we explore them. Like all music of the first order, it's easier to listen to than to describe."
STUART BROOMER - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2005
"Though these three musicians are stylistically quite different, their meeting is not so much improbable as it is combustible. Sticking to his acoustic here, Rupp's speed and lightning imagination produce his now-familiar blend of flamenco madness, percussive attacks, jagged interruptions, and half-mad note frenzies. But what's new in Rupp's playing is his occasionally meditative work, where his bell-like chords ring out over Williamson's sustained arco drones or Buck's non-pulsed, laminal explorations. On these two long improvisations, there are moments when the density these three achieve suggests they are exploring strategies similar to those of Radian or Trapist, using repetition as groundwork for the generation of an immense amount of detail that emerges in relief. This kind of improvisational restraint is always in tension with the more explosive side of the trio, usually catalyzed by Rupp.
For example, the second piece opens at length and, though the occasional restless gesture emerges (like insects disturbing a placid scene), its first several minutes are relatively tranquil. But it is followed by - or, perhaps better, occasionally laced with - numerous spiked, clattery excursuses. I enjoy these fractious moments - dense with contrapuntalism and tonal contrast - on their own, as I do the more plangent, expansive sections. But what's really interesting is the way these three players can cross back and forth between these two modes, pulling against each other but also rapidly integrating. They don't always succeed and there are moments when things seem directionless. But it's still a pretty exhilarating walk on the edge."
JASON BIVINS - ONE FINAL NOTE 2005
"Pandora's box improv, from three younger players on the Berlin scene - you don't so much put this one on the stereo as unleash it. Percussionist Tony Buck offers a series of analogies in the liner notes, suggesting improvisation as a kind of swarm intelligence: 'a pointillist painting… optical 3-D pictures… the pixels in different resolutions of digital photography… a large quiet organism made up of millions of restless cells all working together to create the whole'. Spot on, though 'quiet' isn't exactly the word that comes to mind, faced with this kind of agitated coming-at-you-from-all-directions noise. Acoustic guitarist Olaf Rupp turns bits of jazz and flamenco into frantic scribbles, with the furious virtuosity and economy of an author trying to sign a stack of 100 books at a single sitting. Combine that with Buck's rummaging-through-kitchen-drawer, taking-the-trash-out, snake-slithering-along-the-ground noises and you have a musical sandstorm - underpinned, though, by some unexpectedly patient, lyrical bass work from Joe Williamson. The end result is music that manages to be extremely busy, full of all kinds of fast-forwarded weirdness, while ultimately sounding surprisingly intelligible, even meditative - no mean feat. An excellent release all round. **** "
NATE DORWARD - DON'T EXPLAIN 2006
"Drop yourself in the middle of this acoustic guitar/double bass/percussion trio and prepare to be dynamically assaulted, as the protagonists sound like three kids left alone in a room full of every kind of toy. At times hyperactive, Rupp's nylon-stringed elucubrations are a well received mixture of disjointed strumming, fine clusters, quivering rasgueados and sparse reflective chords that show the German's disguised harmonic sapience. Williamson's tone is made of enormous bass waves, particularly evident during the most dynamically powerful sections; he is maybe the ensemble's 'assertive glue', leading his colleagues through the meanders of cacophonic jewellery and out of the 'noise-at-any-cost' perilous waters. Buck's percussive arsenal helps him throughout his amusing indiscretions, as metallic shades and reckless tampering in clangorous sceneries are a signature of his overjoyed participation to this collective lingo. Tony compares this music to a 'million restless cell' organism on the liner notes and I find his description absolutely fitting."
MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2005
"WEIRD WEAPONS proposes a titillating free improvisation session between three musicians that have been involved on the scene while also exploring the fringes of rock, jazz and noise. The three of them convened to record acoustic free improvisations. No amplification or electronics were involved. The CD contains two extended pieces bearing titles evoking artificialness, but present music that is paradoxically very natural-sounding, immediate and somewhat atavistic. Rupp attacks the guitar like a Eugene Chadbourne, but articulates his ideas like a Derek Bailey. This unusual combination propels the trio's music.
Williamson, who lacks a little bit of presence in the mix, dives head first into the maelstrom created by Rupp, setting temporary order, choosing tidbits from the guitarist¹s logorrhea, from which he develops his own verbomotricity. Buck, who usually plays the timekeeper in The Necks, his most famous trio project, might as well be wearing an octopus suit. Like a Paul Lovens with an angry attitude, he hits, brushes and scrapes at inhuman speed, while retaining a convincing level of subtlety, especially in the 34-minute Naugahyde. Strangely enough, the best moments on the album occur in the first half of the 24-minute Spandex, when each player minds his own business, in a contest about who can be the most frantic. It makes the somewhat quieter, more focused episodes all the more striking in their collective mindframe. If you know these musicians from their non-improv ventures, you might not get what you expect from WEIRD WEAPONS, but people familiar with the aesthetics of the Emanem label will not be disappointed."
FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2005
"Barely constrained sonic violence predominates on WEIRD WEAPONS. The entirety of both tracks is made up with dissonant intensity. Distinctively enough, Rupp thrusts his tough arpeggios and distinctive tremolo into the dense playing situation with an acoustic, nylon-string guitar. Clusters of sound and energy predominate - agitato, prestissimo and fortissimo - with the sweeping guitar string patterns, pressured bass notes and chain shaking and ratcheting percussion reminiscent of an early Derek Bailey trio, if the British guitarist had worked with, say, drummer Roger Turner as well as bassist Barry Guy.
Organized around hard, repetitive down strokes from Rupp, cross-patterning frails and fills from Buck and basement echoing col legno spans from Williamson, the effect is what you imagine the soundtrack would reflect if a trio of mad scientists were foraging through a combination laboratory and junk shop. Tapping and slapping tones on the bridge and up the neck, the guitar is a perpetual motion machine with its tremolos and diamond-hard string snaps often turning to note clusters. Retorts take the form of rammed floor kettle and snare tops and drumstick dragged across the ride cymbal, as well as J. Arthur Rank-like gong soundings. Blunt, irregular patterns take up another portion of the tracks, with the bassist seemingly intent on never appending a continuum.
Eventually, at about the half-way point, when it appears that no more muscle could be applied to any of the instruments the polyphonic cooperation reaches a crescendo. Rupp turns to banjo-like chromatic effects, Buck to accelerating metallic-splashes and slashes, and Williamson to constantly changing patterning and accents. With every aural cavity crammed all have to slam on the metaphorical brakes, which they do with gradual sul ponticello bass lines, rigid string snapping and scrapped and patted drum bounces. Each of the overlong tracks evolves the same way, with the contrapuntal dynamics reaching such a pitch of unrestrained excitement that you hardly notice the passing of time - although each independently reaches a satisfactory cool down and conclusion."
KEN WAXMAN - JAZZ WEEKLY 2005
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