Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


March 19, 2019
Variations on Ways in which a Man and a Woman Can Pass the Time
In recent years, the folks at Relative Pitch Records have included among their releases several duets featuring a man and a woman making what listeners with an open ear and a generous disposition can describe as music. In this review, we reflect on four such dialogues, admiring each for its individual virtues and implicitly comparing them with each other as a means of high-lighting their differences. These four albums include

  • untitled - Samara Lubelski & Bill Nace (2018)
  • The Mouser - Tomeka Reid & Filippo Monico (2019)
  • Lily - Isabelle Duthoit & Franz Hautzinger (2017)
  • Utter - Ingrid Laubrock & Tom Rainey (2018)


untitled - Samara Lubelski & Bill Nace
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPR1072
Country: United States
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Media: cd entry
Everyone has a history, some more private than others. Some histories are well-documented. In the case of the two individuals featured in this recording, each has a distinct discography spanning more than a decade. The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House were unfamiliar with the repertoire of either musician, so framing this duet in terms of historical projects is beyond the scope of our knowledge. Instead, we can convey the pleasant surprise at the music that Ms. Lubelski and Mr. Nace generated in tandem and captured on this disc. The duet involves a violin and a guitar. The music of the violin is accurately described as a dynamic phenomenon with multiple relaxational modes. In this case, there is a fast mode with a subsecond time scale, which corresponds to the rapid oscillation of the bow, and a slow mode, which governs the more gradual evolution of the drone. The guitar provides a sporadic and languid counterpart. Together, the musicians describe a sonic landscape, which finds its own unique appeal to the ear.

As much as anything else, the music reminds the staff of the PPPH of a combination of a Phill Niblock work, say G2,44+/x2 and something from the electroacoustic genre, more along the lines of an erstwhile release. In any case, having no expectations, we were surprised and delighted by this release.


The Mouser - Tomeka Reid & Filippo Monico
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPR1081
Country: United States
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Media: cd entry
There are those who argue against the description of music as "non-idiomatic improvisation", since a category of music that conforms to that label succumbs to its own idiom. At the PPPH, we continue to embrace the appellation of "non-idiomatic improvisation" in both music and literature. Periodically, one stumbles upon music, which is simultaneously outside any idiom and improvised. It seems silly to find a more obtuse description for the sake of theory. Here the duet is one of cello and drums. We can't immediately identify another cello and drums duet, but presumably in the history of human music-making, such a combination has previously manifested. Even so, it is unlikely that the sort of music that emerged bore any resemblance to that which Ms. Reid and Mr. Monico coax from their respective instruments. (Editor's note: Ms. Reid's Hairy Who & The Chicago Imagists has a fair bit of cello and drums duet, but in all other respects bears little similarity in intent or in approach to The Mouser.)

On The Mouser, the voice of the cello varies greatly across the span of the disc, from long notes that one would immediately associate with the instrument to plucking that seems reasonably cello-like to frenetic scratching that can be identified as emanating from the cello only by the context of the sounds within the rest of the release. The percussion provides a nuanced and reserved complement to the cello, though its presence is essential to message of the duet.

The staff of the PPPH are fans of Ms. Reid from her work with Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton and other collaborators both inside and outside the AACM. Still, we had not heard this side of Ms. Reid. What it reminds us of, as much as anything else, is the sort of conversations that the British guitarist, Derek Bailey, had with the Dutch percussionist, Han Bennink, in decades gone by. (See for example incus 9.) To be clear, this is the highest sort of praise we can give.


Lily - Isabelle Duthoit & Franz Hautzinger
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPR1060
Country: United States
Release Date: May 26, 2017
Media: cd entry
Of the four albums discussed on this page, this is the first one released and the first one that we heard. We included it as one of our ten favorite records of 2017 at the PPPH. It is a duet featuring the inimitable voice of Ms. Duthoit and the trumpet of Mr. Hautzinger. The use of the human voice as an instrument of non-idiomatic improvisation is one that, even among aficionados of musics of the marginal culture, can require some acclimation. Hearing the voice used in an unnatural way makes the listener uncomfortable. For those who seek instinctual discomfort in their music, the search is over! They will find it in the gurgling and growling and ragged inhalations of Ms. Duthoit.

For those whom Lily serves as an introduction to the vocal talents of Ms. Duthoit, there are numerous other extraordinary recordings of her work on both clarinet and voice, including but not limited to Light Air Still Gets Dark (w/ Alexander Frangenheim & Roger Turner, Creative Sources, 2016), Parlance (w/ Georg Graewe, nuscope, 2016), Bouge (w/ Johannes Bauer & Luc Ex, Vand'Oeuvre, 2013), Avenues (w/ Jacques Demierre, Unit Records, 2008) and Triolid (w/ David Chiesa & Laurent Dailleau, Potlatch, 2002).

It would be unfair of us to completely neglect mention of the trumpeter on this recording. Mr. Hautzinger is an accomplished non-idiomatic improviser in his own right. That he embraces the role here of playing a supporting role in a duet is a testament to his humility and his artistic esthetic.


Utter - Ingrid Laubrock & Tom Rainey
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPR1076
Country: United States
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Media: cd entry
When it first occurred to the staff of the PPPH that they might write a combined review of releases related to each other only by the common label and the shared fact that they were duets featuring one woman and one man, we initially imagined it would be comprised of the three recordings already described above. Only after a visit to the site, did we remember that Utter also shares these two same features.

The difference of course is that Ms. Laubrock and Mr. Rainey are associated with Jazz with a capital "J". The Tom Rainey Trio, in which they are joined by the American guitarist Mary Halvorson is today at the forefront of contemporary, avant garde jazz. While Ms. Laubrock is a master of the saxophone and can make it honk with the best of them, it is hard for her not to make music that is immediately pleasing to the ear. Even the tracks on "Utter" where she is performing some unusual breathing exercises through the saxophone are modest experiments relative to the sounds generated by Ms. Lubelski, Ms. Reid and Ms. Duthoit in their respective duets.

Considered as a whole, these four duets showcase the breadth of the improvised duets being released on Relative Pitch. The music on each record is as different from that on another as one could imagine, but a common theme is found in the four dialogues, in which the female collaborator provides the lead voice and the male collaborator provides a supporting platform to emphasize and accentuate the creative talent on display.


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