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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Biliana Voutchkova & Michael Thieke - Blurred Music [Elsewhere Music - 2018]

Blurred Music is a three-CD release that offers up three separate performances that smudge the line between drone, modern composition, and improv. Each performance runs between forty minutes & just over the hour mark, and each is a fairly, shifting & eventful sonic trip.

The release brings together Bulgarian composer and improviser Biliana Voutchkova on Violin & voice. And Berlin-based composer & Improviser Michael Thieke on Clarinet. Each performance here was recorded in December 2016, in a different American city- and really each is different & varied enough from each other, to make the whole thing worthy.

Blurred Music is packaged in a fold-out mini card gatefold- this features abstract & different coloured shapes spread out over an off-white backdrop. Inside we, of course, get a track listing & recording details, but we also get a short write-up about the concept of the release, and how each performance blurs together pre-recorded, improvised & manipulated elements.

So the first discs piece was recorded in Chicago, and comes in at just over the fifty-minute mark. It jumps straight in with a churning & noisy blend of circling honks & violin saws- this start has an almost wonky industrial feel about, but fairly soon the pace & manic-ness is slowed as we get slow circling passes of  tonally wavering pipes & drunken string simmers- and at this point we are only five minutes in!.  As we move through the track, we go from extremely busy & seared blends of horn & string play, onto more considered & placed breathing, scratching, and groanings. Through to sadly harmonic simmers, that slowly bend & wavering out of tune, onto sudden skipping & darts of both horn & string. Though the piece is most active- there is seemingly both logic & sense in the flow of the work, and the more harmonic elements are rather moodily moving.

Disc two takes in a recording Philadelphia, and this is the shortest piece here at just over the forty minute mark. This starts off very slurred, unwell & unsettling with the pair stretching out their joint tone sustains into these sourly opening drone drifts. By around the third minute we get a sudden galloping & sawing string work pick-up, but just when you think the pace is going change for good the horn work slides back in once more slowing & souring everything. Later on, we move to the brightly creepy blend of chatting high pitched vocal sounds, rapid neck picks, and wavering painful drone simmers. As the track moves on the pained & uneasy feel is retained as we get blends of buzzing saw tones, weird manic breathings, and drone forks. Of the three pieces, I’d say this is the most searing, sour & at times noisy.

The third & final disc takes in a performance from New York- this is longest here at near the hour & ten-minute mark, and it’s also the most sonically varied. Starting from solemn & angular mood begins, which sees a haunting blend of bleak saws & balance effect pitch descents. Onto rapid & jittering sways of playful micro honks, neck scuttles, and weird vocalizing. Through to slowly build banks of string & horn hover. Onto to wishful & high pitched mixes of wavering harmonics, twitching neck play. Through the atmospheric blending of rising ambient horn melody & slight pitch strained string work.

Each of the performances has its strengths, but I’d say of the three, the second more seared & noisy is my favourite-as I just really enjoy everything they do on this track, and the sourly sear-ness they create here.

In summing up I can’t say I enjoy everything on here, and at times it seemed like the players lost their way somewhat, but there where enough effective/ enjoyable elements here to say that if you enjoy the place where modern composition, drone & improv meet then I’d give Blurred Music a try.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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