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Robert Dick and Ursel Schlicht - Photosphere

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Artist: Robert Dick and Ursel Schlicht

Album: Photosphere

Label: Nemu

Review date: Oct. 17, 2006

Nemu’s second release finds pianist Ursel Schlicht and flutist Robert Dick redefining themselves during this live recording from 2004. The opening, breathtakingly brittle moments of “Lapis Blues” were a perfect choice to introduce the duo; Dick plays the simultaneous roles of percussionist and flutist, while Schlicht’s bare-fifths rumbling on prepared piano provide a granite foundation for her partner's blues-bent and highly vocal utterances.

While pieces like “Lapis Blues” and “Faust” demonstrate an ability to blend high-powered compositional chops with riveting improv, the duo’s improvisational style is unique. The first half of “Emergence” might have been performed by a larger group; subtle percussives and overtones enrich the texture to the point that it's difficult to assess who is making which sound. Schlicht’s style of piano preparation often highlights resonance over percussion, so that lower notes flutter and grind, almost sounding like a second instrument.

Dick’s use of multiphonics is astonishing, each gesture involving such subtlety that only on repeated listens does the duo’s symbiotic approach really elucidate itself. It isn’t just a question of matching emotive states or tonal centers, which are constants on this disc; Schlicht and Dick have such complete understanding of their instruments that multileveled communication is more an imperative than an aspiration.

I do not mean to imply that extended techniques are the duo’s M.O., which would do such complete music-making a disservice. “Fragments” is introduced by some of the finest “conventional” playing I’ve heard in some time, with Schlicht conjuring images of piano greats like Michelangeli or Mark-André Hamelin with her control of the finest details. To say that Dick’s arsenal of devices is orchestral would be too archaic a description of his seemingly limitless imagination and technique. I can only hope that this is the first of many offerings from this remarkable duo.

By Marc Medwin

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