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The disc is a recent release on the Monotype label by a group named LHZ+H, who are the semi regular trio of Thomas Lehn, (analogue synth) Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba) and Philip Zoubek (piano) augmented on this 2008 occasion by the trumpeter Franz Hautzinger, who on this occasion added a delay pedal to his instrument. The release contains four improvised tracks, and is named Scope.
Now, I have been known to describe some improvised music as brooding a good few times before, perhaps trying to paint a picture of how it might simmer away, full of tension, without quite bursting into life, and that term is the one that springs to mind for this release as well. While there is plenty of life here, and on most of the pieces a crescendo of some kind is usually reached, the overall sensation of this album is of dark, murmuring tones and muttered little discussions that hide away in the margins rather than jump out to be heard. Things do regularly coalesce into a greater whole however, and on each of the tracks the sensation of pregnant unease does blossom into something far more expressive, but this always happens very slowly and gradually, pulling the listener gently with them rather than introducing any sudden surprises.
The quartet each play in a very understated manner. The tuba playing is remarkably restrained, sometimes letting little bursts of tone go, but often keeping things to a deeply breathy series of hisses and puffs. the piano rarely sounds much like a piano, with Zoubek working a lot on the inside of the instrument, only really coming alive at the keys during the final piece here, and again playing in a very restrained manner, adding his pinch of spice to the recipe and helping it come steadily to the boil rather than adding any grand gestures. Lehn is as subtle as ever, letting his synth bubble away quietly, but adding little spikes here and there, with his input often blending with Hautzinger's delay enriched trumpet, with the pedal kept nicely within tasteful parameters and steering clear of its overuse. The group work very well together, and the abiding aural picture I have of the album is one of a combined song rather than a collection of four tussling individual voices. If improvised music is often divided up into clumsy sub-genres simply by the amount of activity taking place, then Scope might actually make such a generalisation fail to work, as there is a lot going on here just about all of the time, but the overall sensation of the music is a hushed, calm, slow one, only bursting into life over a long period of time, and not all that often. Its a really nice CD though, a good one for dark evenings like tonight when a long day and a busy week encourages just a lazy listen and pacy music isn't required. The problem with just relaxing into Scope and letting it lead the way however is that before you know it, without you realising, you suddenly find yourself twitching and wriggling as the music has slipped up on you and shaken things up, almost unannounced. The way the music does this is only testament to how well the group play, how easily they come together and how closely linked their individual views of the music seem to be. Very nice improv then, and one that once again defies pigeonholing. (the Watchful Ear)