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Tidszon - Unsk

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Artist: Tidszon

Album: Unsk

Label: Creative Sources

Review date: Sep. 20, 2004

Of all the recent releases by the fine Creative Sources label, Unsk by the collective Tidszon may be the richest. The quartet consists of trumpeter and electronician Birgit Ulher, saxophonist Martin Küchen, electronician Lise-Lott Norelius, and percussionist Raymond Strid. Küchen and Strid are doubtless the more familiar of the four players here, and of the four they are the more expressive. Strid is a fantastic player, taking off roughly from Paul Lovens’ rumbling and slashing percussion but extending that influence in multiple ways. He has graced any number of excellent recordings with Marilyn Crispell and Mats Gustafsson, and on each he strikes that difficult balance between muscle and color. And Küchen is an amazing, and at times incendiary, saxophonist who recently won some deserved acclaim for last year’s fab Exploding Customer disc on Ayler Records. But paired with Ulher – a terrifically inventive trumpeter who explores territory close to that of Franz Hautzinger, Ruth Barberan, and Greg Kelley – and Norelius (who is new to me but is quite adept with her electronics), they explore a frostier, more remote area of improvised music.

While these improvisations are clearly informed by contemporary electro-acoustic music, they are equally beholden to robust European traditions of free blowing. And there are many moments in Tidszon’s music – with objects rolling on drumheads, spit gurgling in horns and long electronic tones connecting it all like threads in a web – where that elusive synthesis between old and new idioms seems to have been achieved. Some pieces come across like genuine four-part conversations, with clearly distinct gestures popping here and there like flash bulbs: a flourish of electronics, a delicate brush stroke, a chewy reed or brass lick. Yet just as many radiate with the aural equivalent of listening to a colony of insects laboring away on the other side of a steel plate; there are sounds of grinding, boring, drilling, and wheezing. Even on these occasions, the fascinatingly cryptic playing sparkles with the individuality of the players, who clatter, gurgle, chortle and burn in distinct ways.

So much freely improvised music succeeds or fails on the basis of gesture: what possibilities can be opened up with/through a single utterance or feint? How does a lone chirrup crystallize a larger flow of events? Or in what ways might a meaningful narrative be spun not so much from continuous wild expressionism as from interlocking muted asides? These are the questions Tidszon pursues and, if the music doesn’t seem to resolve over the course of these eight improvisations, that’s largely because the musicians’ collective aesthetic resists closure. In Tidszon’s world, that openness is the mark of compelling, challenging improvisations.

By Jason Bivins

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