Gino Robair / Birgit Ulher - "Yellow With Antenna" (Blips and Ifs)
Blips and Ifs takes inspiration from restriction and refusal. German Birgit Ulher is perhaps the most radical of the current generation of trumpeters whose refusal to settle for the sounds yielded by conventional technique has opened radical new options for the instrument. Nate Wooley and Axel Dörner may play it sweet and straight from time to time, but Ulher never breaks from her non-standard vocabulary of pops, mutters, wheezes and smears. Here, she matches that denial of convention with an especially restrained attack.
Known mainly as a percussionist, San Francisco-based drummer-synthesist-pianist-composer-conductor Gino Robair is versatile enough to sound equally a propos hammering thuggish beats with Pink Mountain and matching John Butcher’s birdlike saxophone chatter with shrieking bowed Styrofoam. Here, he turns his back on everything save a little analog synth called a Blippoo Box. The result is not only an advance from the duo’s earlier record, Sputter, but a real high point in both of their discographies.
By cutting way back on instrumentation and technique, Robair and Ulher have forced themselves to really listen to each other and contribute thoughtfully with whatever they have left. And by pairing the amplified squelch of breath and spit within metal with an exceptionally sibilant-sounding electronic instrument, they’ve happened into a sound world where two things that sound utterly alien but quite similar to each other blend without ever blurring. And they do it at speed, adding on the events so that even a confirmed EAI-hater might find herself sucked in.