(released May 1, 2001)
Axel Dörner: trumpet
Kevin Drumm: guitar, electronics
tracks 1 and 2 were recorded in October 2000 at Studio Amann, Vienna; other tracks recorded in February 2000 at The Steam Room.
front cover photography by John Corbett
Axel Dörner and Kevin Drumm are two of the most exciting improvisers in the world. Dörner is at the forefront of a handful of young trumpeters who are reexamining the instrument, approaching it from entirely different perspectives, while Drumm's chameleon-like presence has been documented on a handful of projects, each revealing new facets of his wide-ranging and unique talents on both guitar and electronics.
Dörner hails from Cologne, and has been living in Berlin since 1994. He is one of the busiest musicians in the European improv scene, working in projects ranging from free improv ensembles like the Territory Band (Okkadisk) and Hidros One (Caprice) to more abstract work with Annette Krebs, Günter Müller and Andrea Neumann. He has a solo CD out soon on A Bruit Secret, as well as a trio disc with Xavier Charles and John Butcher on Potlatch. Drumm lives in Chicago, and has quickly risen to prominence since the release of his debut self-titled record (Perdition Plastics) in 1997. He's released superb duo records with Taku Sugimoto (Sonoris) and Martin Tétreault (Erstwhile), as well as an upcoming one with Ralf Wehowsky (Selektion).
Dörner and Drumm have performed together many times over the last few years, both as a duo and as a trio with drummer Paul Lovens. This untitled CD was compiled from two different studio sessions, one in Chicago in February 2000, and the second in Vienna in October 2000, and reflects some of the wide range of the approaches which this duo utilize. Dörner and Drumm seamlessly meld the worlds of acoustic and electronic, occasionally teetering on the edge of silence, yet always remaining impeccably musical.
The arresting cover photos were shot by illustrious Chicago critic and musician John Corbett.
"Ever since I first heard about Axel Dörner (courtesy of Mats Gustafsson - "He's inhuman!"), I’ve secretly been waiting for this recording. Dörner's "inhuman" ability to paradoxically master his instrument's most unstable areas finds an ideal partner in Drumm’s own sonic destabilizations. Together they create a complex, mottled web of sound-in-flux. Taut, electric, and thoroughly engaging!" -- Greg Kelley
The Wire, Will Montgomery
This addition to the impressive Erstwhile catalogue brings German trumpeter Dörner together with the American guitarist Drumm. Only it isn't that simple of course. As anyone whos come across these highly active musicians might expect, theres not a conventional plucked string or trumpet tone to be heard throughout. Where technique is concerned, these two are out on the furthest of limbsnot so much extended as exploded. Drumm is also credited with electronics, and the album, dominated by two long tracks, is full of electric fizzes and crackles. The music ranges from brut episodes to moments of high delicacy. Sometimes they lapse into stretches of near complete silence, before changing gear and taking off in a new direction. Dörner makes much of the many varieties of blowing: whistles and squeaks escaping the lips, the hiss of air over metal. Drumm contributes a huge range of distressed tones. In the end, its a rarefied kind of music, built from a succession of floating, sustained sounds. Onkyo-like extremes of high pitch pierce the music in places, while machinery is always in tension with the physicality of Dörners breathtones. There are shifts in the density of the musical incidents, but the performances; coherence lies in the players great sensitivity to texture. The sounds Dörner and Drumm leave hanging in space have an intensely vibrant quality, and the connections between these disparate elements are beautifully drawn. Though the album has its harsh and austere places, the collaboration blossoms into an oasis of communicative sound.
Opprobrium, Nick Cain
It's an appropriate coincidence that Trumpet, Axel Dörner's recently released solo CD, shares its title with Greg Kelley's solo CD [Meniscus, released last year] - both players are quietly going about an unlikely decontextualisation and revision of the instrument's possibilities, in the process forcing it into uncharted areas of sound.
Trumpet also serves as a useful entry-point for the Dörner/Drumm duo. While Drumm's guitar and electronics contributions are recognisable, for much of the recording it's not immediately clear what Dörner who camouflages himself, an almost phantom presence, furtively shading Drumm - is actually doing. Familiarity with Trumpet provides aural clues which assist in filtering out Dörner's playing, very little of which, as before, is readily identifiable as trumpet. 85% of the disc is taken up with a two-part 43-minute piece, which threads together with just-audible hums disorientatingly faint sibilance, chirping electroacousticity, electro-crackle and low-volume squealing, all of which are painstakingly channelled into passages of aural-squint morse-code tones and drones before abruptly cutting away. The music is microcosmic, miniaturised but intensely alive: bleached of familiar textural motifs, and glistening luminously with rich microtonal detail. The remaining three pieces/eight minutes date from 10 months previous - more playful, active and louder, they end up sounding less advanced. Nonetheless, this excellent disc supplies a precise summation of the Erstwhile ethos: like the best of the artists on this label's finest titles, they intelligently apply both an expanded sound vocabulary and modern technology (or advanced technical approaches to un-modern instruments) to a stripped-down and honed improvisational dialectic, to produce fresh and radical music which sounds like a feasible way forward for an often regressive idiom.
All Music Guide, Brian Olewnick
Erstwhile enjoys pairing an acoustic free improviser with an electric one; the duo of trumpeter Axel Dörner and guitarist/electronicist Kevin Drumm is one of its most inspired combinations. While Dörner can be heard playing mainstream avant-garde in other contexts (such as the fine hatOLOGY release by Sven-Ake Johansson, Six Little Pieces for Quintet), here he rarely plays anything that sounds remotely trumpet-like. Instead he uses breath tones that whistle or rustle like breezes, aqueous gurglings that sound subterranean in origin or percussive clicks and taps that play with the resonance of the brass. Likewise, Drumm creates few sounds generally associated with the guitar, rather integrating his hums, feedback, etc. with Dörner to create a seamless and rich sound-world where each musicians ego is sublimated to the whole. The first two lengthy tracks are studio recordings and have a hermetic and fascinating character. As rarified as the music is, the two performers manage to unearth enormous richness both in sonic detail and simply in the space they discover. The three short live pieces (all selections on the disc are untitled) have an entirely different, more expansive sound, as if Dörner and Drumm had just opened their laboratory door to a bracing gust of cool air. Each is not only superb in and of itself, but offers very intriguing vistas of territory as yet uncovered. Axel Dörner-Kevin Drumm is state-of-the-art free improvising of an extremely high order and is strongly recommended.