| -- -- -- -- PHOTOS -- -- --
EKG, a messed-up, mind-messing electro-acoustic duo
- Tom Djll, One Final Note, August 2004
reviews for Electricals
(page down for reviews of Group
[with Giuseppe Ielasi] , No sign,
and Object 2
For reviews of the Antonioni compilation, click here
[Bruckmann and Karel] concentrate, as implied by the title, on the non-acoustic portion of their arsenal here, fashioning five fine pieces again, as with the previous releases, balancing the crunchy with the smooth, the fluttery with the grainy buzz. I get a subtle narrative flavor here as well; much of this music would work very well in partnership with visuals. When the horns do emerge, it's often quite effective in a plaintive, melancholy manner. The structures are off-center enough that I find new facets on each hearing, always a good sign. Good stuff.
- Brian Olewnick, Just Outside, Sunday, May 03, 2009
I like this release quite a bit. If there ever was such a thing as electroacoustic improvisation this disc would probably typify such a categorisation in that it consists of two musicians (Ernst Karel, trumpet and analogue electronics and Kyle Bruckmann, oboe, english horn and analogue electronics) that combine acoustic and electric instrumentation in such a way that it often becomes difficult to tell them apart.
On the whole the music is relatively understated, consisting more of layered tones and warbling textures than anything too energetic and eventful, but the switches in sound when they do come tend towards sudden handbrake turns rather than gentle blending into the flow. There are five pieces altogether, each a little vignette in itself. The second track, titled Drift is the most calmly poignant to my ears, though ironically given the title the track also slowly grows into a troubled cauldron of electronic bubbles and groans. Maybe it drifts there but it is not always a relaxing journey. Resistance may be my favourite track, a fretful exchange of simple yet disturbingly charged lines of muted sounds with a dark, grainy undertone to them, threatening aggression in several places.
Electricals is a deceptive release. If you only half-listen to the album while trying to do other things at the same time its easy to miss the subtleties of the music. I first listened last night while writing my daily post and although the music was pleasing I missed a good deal. Listening on headphones in bed early this morning revealed a lot more, the tension simmering between the two layers of sound became clear, and the overall sense of composition to the recording shone through, with each track obviously improvised and yet involving a placement of sound that betrayed the experience and skill of the musicians. A really nice release, yet another strong one from Another Timbre and the best AT sleeve design yet too if you ask me.
- Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear, Saturday 11th April 2009
The 16th release from this British label is an album by the duo EKG, and is as unpretentious as the daisies on its cover. It goes without saying that these two young musicians have nothing to do with diagnostics of cardio-vascular illness. Instead, EKG is made up of Ernst Karel and Kyle Bruckmann, lovers of analogue electronic instruments and early hardcore. Electricals is the group’s fourth album.
The fact that Ernst also plays the trumpet and Kyle, the oboe and English horn, is not that important as the brass instruments are only a drop in the bucket of noise that fills to the brim the five compositions on this disc. One more detail: the sound of live instruments here is not simply the raw material that is later transformed. The melancholy trumpet and oboe soar above the frozen soundscape but never join into a united whole.
For some time now, EKG has existed in the borderlands between composition and improvisation. As the musicians themselves admit, their music is borne of rehearsal and preparation as much from the spontaneity of live performances. Neither Ernst nor Kyle consider it a necessity to solidify their material into a finalized form. Why? Simply because there is no reason for such a decisive step, and their niche or reputation in the scene doesn’t concern these young guys. That is how music is born: the crackle of filters, ultrasound-roar of oscillographs, barely perceptible changing landscape… The cosiness of a world made by hand.
- Dennis Vederko, Improvised & Noise Music [translated from Russian by Maxim Pozdorovkin]
Even though Kyle and Ernst play acoustic instruments like oboe and trumpet, it is often difficult to tell what exactly they are playing since nothing is as it appears. Eerie, spacious, electronic and other odd sounds are carefully placed upon clouds of silence, drifting or floating in the air. Static, quiet yet effective spurts, analogue synth fragments, music concrete snips, all well crafted and selectively placed. We rarely if ever hear something that sounds like an oboe or trumpet, not that it matters when the outcome is this mysterious and engaging.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
J’aime beaucoup ce duo. Sa musique (improvisation électroacoustique très expérimentale) m’interpelle et me mystifie. Excellent sens de l’intrigue, de la tension, du déplacement sensoriel qui mène à découvrir une autre beauté.
I like this duo a lot. Their brand of highly-experimental electroacoustic improvisation beckons me and mystifies me. Great sense of intrigue, tension, and sensory displacement leading to the discovery of an “other” form of beauty.
- François Couture, Monsieur Délire, 14 May 2009
Le quatrième opus de ce duo, réalisé entre 2007 et 2008, sonne beaucoup plus électronique et abstrait que les précédents. Les sources instrumentales sont effacées au profit de textures et de matières qui donnent un résultat plus proche de compositions électroacoustiques que d'improvisations. Autant paysager - aride et sec - que cinématographique - science fiction des années 50.
Initial adherence to a logic of quasi-static restriction, prevalently symbolized by the gradual morphing of an unstable immobility which, little by little, gives room to a series of slightly conflicting occurrences, never trespassing its peripheral limits. Not exactly good-natured, the music fertilizes the field of concentration by tempting the listener with spacious transmutations and instantaneous openings, revealing in turn threatening obscurities and enticing discrepancies. The program changes a bit with the introduction of additional contrasts in timbres and dynamics, thus enhancing the proportion between economy of means and stimulation of the perceptive systems. Should you have any doubt, the original character of the instruments is more or less decomposed, a thorough mutation which lets us forget about the concept of “pitch”, replacing it with something nearer to “nuclear degradation”. The concluding piece “Interval” offers tasty food to drone lovers too, surrounding them with potent lows blemished by scathing dispersals of power and paralyzing glissandos dipped in feedback and electricity. Splendid finale for a inexplicably excellent work, one that needs to be listened attentively rather than described by (as always) futile words. Its mystifying impenetrability, highlighted by a coherent sturdiness, speaks for itself.
- Massimo Ricci, Temporary Fault, 27 May 2009
Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, english horn & analogue electronics) and Ernst Karel (trumpet & analogue electronics) hail from Chicago, operate as EGK [sic] and have had a few releases before, which I thought were pretty good. Their music doesn't seem to deal that much with the instruments they play, which are most of the time not to be recognized at all, although on the other hand it hasn't entirely disappeared either. Sometimes we hear the wind instruments, but throughout mostly this music deals with the electronic processing thereof. Perhaps that's why I like it so much. EGK [sic] feed the sounds through their analogue electronics, making it sound entirely different of course, but it keeps that improvised music feel, with sudden moves and swift changes, or in 'Interval' a mean drone like sound. That combination of analogue and electronic improvisation leads to mighty fine results here again. I must say that I didn't hear much new under their sun either, but I guess this is the third or fourth CD I heard by them in maybe twice as many years, so there is no overproduction there.
- Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly 676
Across nearly twenty discs in a fairly short time, Simon Reynell’s Another Timbre has presented the work of a number of electro-acoustic artists. If there is a vein running through the label’s output, it is that of materialist directness and profound immediacy. EKG is the duo of Bay Area oboist Kyle Bruckmann and German trumpeter [sic] Ernst Karel; of the two, Bruckmann is the more familiar figure, spanning the worlds of non-idiomatic and electro-acoustic improvisation as well as prog and noise-rock. "Field" is measured in its approach, its long humming tones permeated by mixing-board glitches, rattles, and unruly percussive shorts. It’s somewhat traditional in organization despite untraditional means, as fuzzy patches, blips and rumble merge into a minor crescendo and fall away by piece’s end. "Drift" is despite its title highly focused – an orchestrated unity of mournful hum punctuated by cantankerous, mealy circuit clatter and brief pulses. "Current" begins with waves of queasy whirr and stuttering, the violence later subsiding into a tense face-off of held tones. Though both players are accomplished acoustic improvisers, the emphasis is squarely on electronics, though snatches of traditional instrumentation emerge to color the canvas – a daub of chortling trumpet here, sinewy reeds there. The improvisations here are fairly uniform in character, but that quality gives a suite-like feeling to Electricals: there’s a broad range of gestures and effects despite the narrow palette.
- Clifford Allen, Paris Transatlantic, summer 2009
Electricals is the fourth album by the EKG duo of Kyle Bruckmann and Ernst Karel. It follows Group (Formed, 2006), their collaboration with Giuseppe Ielasi in which the three integrated analogue electronics and acoustic instruments into a coherent whole, giving the electronics a remarkable feeling of humanity and warmth.
Now Electricals successfully repeats the feat. This album and all of its tracks are appropriately named, as their titles all seem to relate to electricity in some way. At times, the music includes those unwanted noises that sound systems are wont to produce in the presence of electric fields and such. Rather than that creating a random noise environment, EKG creatively sculpt such hisses, hums and pops into an integrated piece with the sound of their wind instruments. Paradoxically, the wind instruments often play sustained notes, leading to tones that could be electronic in origin. Starting with studio or live recordings of duo improvisations, Bruckmann and Karel edit, mix, extend and assemble them into pieces that almost warrant the description "compositions."
To the duo, it seems important that they use analogue and not digital electronics; partly this is for historical reasonstheir affection for the electronic studio sounds of the '50s and '60sand partly for the sense of hands-on interactivity that using analogue electronics brings. Both reasons help explain the humanity of their electronics compared to some laptop-produced sounds. For comparable examples, think of the differences in sound between acoustic and electric guitar or between double bass and bass guitar.
The connectedness of the track titles emphasizes the unity of the five tracks. While not forming a suite, the end results hang together well and make for fascinating and engaging listening.
- John Eyles, All About Jazz, 9 June 2009
With the oboe and English horn (Kyle Bruckmann), trumpet (Ernst Karel) and analog electronics (both), this American duo performs impertinent and unobtrusive improvisations. The acoustic and the electronic approach each other to the point that it is impossible to determine which is which. When the instruments simultaneously speak unconventional languages, this is not about music based on recognition and melodies.
Like many others on the improv scene, Bruckmann and Karel also approach their instruments very closely in their sound creation. So close that it is not possible to distinguish between the instruments' tones and to link them to the musical context. The sounds and how they are put together become everything! It is also in this that the disc's five improvisations differ. The sound imagery speaks unobtrusively of electricity in "Field" and becomes almost ghostly in "Interval," while it approaches harder surfaces with feedback in "Drift."
In almost everything, Bruckmann and Karel do it well; they balance successfully between events-meditation, electric-acoustic, structure-fragment to produce many exciting moods. It works quite excellently to have the music on in the background, but to really absorb it requires a close listening - otherwise a lot is missed.
- Magnus Nygren, Sound of Music [translated from Swedish by Jennifer Mack]
reviews for Group, with Giuseppe Ielasi
(page down for reviews of No sign
and Object 2)
Composed of microscopic electronics, floating brass instrument tones and prepared/tabletop guitar events, Group
-- paradoxically -- rocks. Recorded by the EKG duo of Ernst Karel and Kyle Bruckmann along with Milanese guitarist Giuseppe Ielasi, it's an object lesson in the inherent breadth of vision made available by the contemporary melding of acoustic instruments and electronics.
These collaborations were recorded during off-days on a 2005 tour, and added to later by mail collaboration. The music is quiet but not undemanding, careful listening yielding subtle vistas and engaging sonic environments. The crucial thing is that the results do sound like people in a room, with the blown and plucked sounds blending almost unrecognisably with what the duo call "anachronistic electronics", their delightful term for analogue equipment.
The pieces arise, unfold and then depart with a stately logic all their own. At times blown tones recall Scelsi in their purity and self-reliance, while at others the contingent and unpredictable analogue electronic sounds hover on the blurred edge of some withheld outburst, before being undercut by scraped guitar strings or a burble of brass valves. The ghost of This Heat hovers over everything, though mediated through a distinctly chamber music aesthetic.
The players evidence an informed knowledge of a range of musical styles, reflecting their mix of conservatory training and broad experimental practice. Their repertoire of sound sources and collaborative strategies is diverse and engaging. Group is a fine example of the kind of genre hybridisation that typifies early 21st century music.
- Bruce Russell, The Wire, November 2006
Horns live a weird life in the electroacoustic sound
world of Ernst Karel and Kyle Bruckmann. As a duo,
EKG (the Ernst and Kyle Group) includes trumpet,
oboe and English horn and with the addition of
Giuseppe Ielasi they have guitar and piano as well.
But all three also play electronics and the gentle chirps
and whirrs and pops of their analog devices dominate
most of their trio CD Group.
As a duo, EKG have been playing together since
the late '90s and while Bruckmann also leads the
jazz-leaning quintet Wrack and Karel has played with
Balkan and klezmer brass groups, their duo is
sonically sparse, with a nervous sort of ambience.
When the horns come in, they're often in paired,
sustained harmonies, as if mimicking the low-end
frequencies of amplified circuitry. It's a small, private
and melancholy world they create that spins into
vertigo with the occasional appearance of a somber
piano line or ringing guitar strings. The more musical
moments are reminiscent of Gastr del Sol or some of
Cor Fuhler's solo work. But those moments are few
and far between and the rest of the five long tracks
here are more akin to the singing of machines. It can be
quite beautiful, in the AMM-derived way that has
become so fashionable, but only if approached with
more patience than expectations.
- Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz - New York, May 2007
EKG albums so far have been impressive, sober, even frosty experiences, and this latest outing on which Ernst Karel (trumpet, analog electronics) and Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, English horn and analog electronics) are joined by Giuseppe Ielasi (electronics, guitar, piano, etc.) is no exception. It is, though, thanks to the added colour of Ielasi's etc., a slightly more accessible release than last year's No sign
(Sedimental) and 2003's chilly Object 2
(Locust). It's a patient exploration of musical material -- timbral, melodic and even rhythmic (fear not, EAI heads: the fragmented, looped percussion is still light-years away from Ultimate Breaks And Beats).... And a carefully composed affair too, right down to the rondo lugubroso
of the closing "Umweg". Another fine release from Will Benton's excellent Formed label.
- Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic, December 2006
is not an album for city dwellers. The fragile tones emanating from their stereo speakers would likely be overpowered by the din of the industrialized world filtering through their windows, and they would wonder why they paid good money for a CD they can't hear. Recorded live in 2005 and given further treatment in the studio, the five tracks on this collaborative effort from Giuseppe Ielasi and the electroacoustic duo EKG are far too subdued for superficial listening, but close scrutiny illuminates their vast, even cinematic scope.
The abbreviation 'EKG' is used to indicate an electrocardiograph's measurement of the electric currents generated by a heartbeat, and it's a fitting moniker for Ernst Karel and Kyle Bruckmann, whose analog-derived material forms the heart of Group. The odd-numbered tracks were mixed by Karel, the untitled even-numbered tracks by Ielasi, whose digital elements widen the sonic parameters but sound detached and clinical against the warm analog hum.
Many musicians exploit electronics to augment their sound with half-baked beats and uninspired samples, hoping to score with the electronica crowd and to give other listeners the chance to feel like scenesters; luckily, Ielasi and EKG are more interested in the subtle complexities of sound. The moments of near-silence on Group are indeed part of the music, perhaps the most telling part for those who strive in vain to classify the album. By incorporating amplifier buzz, knob clicks, and other sounds that wind up on the proverbial cutting room floor of most commercial recordings, these musicians have turned out a rare breed of meta-music, one with historical precedents reaching back to the musique concrete of the early twentieth century.
Ielasi, in particular, sticks closely to Pierre Schaeffer's aesthetic: he juxtaposes distinct but not wholly recognizable sounds to create a sonic environment only possible with the recorded medium. His few perceptible contributions on guitar and piano resemble extensions of the aural backdrop more than music-making in the conventional sense. Meanwhile, EKG are nearly as parsimonious with their instruments, but when oboe, English horn, and trumpet do appear, it is usually with the intention of harmonic adornment.
If the threesome owes their exploratory outlook to the early pioneers of electroacoustic music, their approach to form betrays a sympathy for the populist's attention span. While most of the tracks approach or surpass the ten-minute mark, the underlying throbs and pulsations distinguish themselves as discernible rhythms frequently enough to keep the listener interested. The primary aim, however, is timbral and textural investigation, so there is very little here that resembles a tune.
The ever-shifting soundfield of Group places its creators square between their proto-glitch predecessors and their laptop-wielding contemporaries. These five imaginary field recordings are, thanks largely to a warm and evocative analog presence, as capable of emotional resonance as any other music.
- Brad Glanden, All About Jazz
... riches, précieuses et délicates compositions .... Amour des matières et du temps suspendu.
There's a kinder, gentler side to eai [electroacoustic improvisation], an area were tonal content is not eschewed, where soft rhythms are allowed more than a brief existence, where granularity doesn't necessarily slide into harshness. One thinks of much of the work issued by the twothousandand label or the lovely albums Olivia Block's created over the past few years. Giuseppe Ielasi has also been exploring this territory in recent times and here teams with the existent duo, EKG (Ernst Karel and Kyle Bruckmann), fashioning a fine recording that not only is aurally amelioratory, but even (heaven forefend!) dabbles in a bit of composition.
There are five tracks, the first, third and fifth arranged and mixed by Karel, the second and fourth by Ielasi, each apparently using performances from an April 2005 tour as a basis and then, to greater or lesser degrees, expanding on those post-recording. While all three utilize electronics, the presence of trumpet, oboe/English horn and guitar/piano act as a warm balance to the abstractions. The horns respond unisonally to the quavering electronics on the opening cut, "Detach", playing Greek chorus to the electronics' tetchy drama. It's an intriguing piece -- almost formal in its structure, again akin to some of Block's work. It also serves as an apt introduction to the rest of the disc which satisfyingly builds from this point in richness and depth. Ielasi's piano on the second track (untitled) immediately opens up the slightly hermetic space established on "Detach" just by positioning a couple of repeated chords at a remove from the crackle 'n' hum. Some taped ambient sound that sounds like muffled speech in an adjacent room adds a third element, again expanding the potential sound environment. The areas thus staked out, they've created a breathing space to inhabit wherein the original elements easily jostle with new ones, the whole sounding deep and natural. When a drone emerges that sounds like an old Jon Gibson electric organ line, it initially shocks but Ielasi's piano chords aptly place it into context.
"(Providence-Middletown)" picks up that organ-y tone, fluctuating in and out like the remnants of an old Riley "Poppy No-Good" session, gloopy blips darting through an increasingly lush haze. It just churns and grinds along beautifully for several minutes before subsiding into a field of whistles and hoots, a solid, audio-tactile journey. The second Ielasi-mixed track is a relatively brief but delightful mélange of bubbly pops and long, pure trumpet tones, easing into a drone that includes something that sounds for all the world like a bicycle bell; gorgeous piece. "Umweg", perhaps the strongest work on the disc, begins with vivid, abstract electronics before very surprisingly introducing an English horn/trumpet line that's quite reminiscent of the sort of slow, dirge-like theme Braxton perfected in the 70s. In fact, there's a reasonable kinship between "Umweg" and Side One of Braxton's "Trio and Duet" originally on Sackville, a similar sense of brooding space. Of course, there are great differences as well and this piece more than holds its own. That theme surfaces every so often, bracketing a handful of finely observed episodes including a wonderful quiet section full of insectile noise, and ending the work succinctly.
Of this area of improv, where a relaxed amble is preferred over a manic run or seated contemplation, it's as good as I've heard this year. Recommended.
- Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen, 24 Sept 2006
reviews for No sign
(page down for reviews of Object 2)
It is a routine and perennial trope of contemporary creative improvisation to claim the mantle of "non-idiomatic", pure abstraction -- to pretend to a clean semiotic break with the world of popular or communal creative music-making. Nominal gestures of resistance aside, No sign
is a significant release (whether or not EKG braces at the thought). EKG is the low-fi electro-acoustic identity of Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, english horn, analog electronics) and Ernst Karel (trumpet, analog electronics). Having both served as in-demand extended technicians of the late 90s Chicago modern composer's community (e.g. Gene Coleman, Jim O'Rourke, Guillermo Gregorio), the lexical integration of modular electronics in the spirit of early Kevin Drumm has placed EKG in the position of claiming Todd Dockstader as a peer in Locust Record's Object Music series. Be assured that the proximity to Dockstader does not end with a catalog number; No sign
does with brass and reeds what his Luna Park
did to laughter in 1961. Karel and Bruckmann, individually and as EKG, are an exciting and heady live proposition; however, the on-the-road 'basement' recordings that comprise No sign
actually accrete an un-indulgent tonal complexity and dangerously intimate psycho-dynamic weight that is only enhanced by relaxed engineering and commitment to tape. EKG's third full length LP comes off as a series of taut sonic essays on the aesthetic and tactical uses of elision and abrasion, wholly worth the time taken to study them repeatedly. Equally instructive and thrilling on the first and the thirty-first listen, No sign
is a welcome succor for all music politely contrived, plug-in driven, or of rote, academic gesture.
- William S. Fields, e|i #5, Fall 2005
Microscopic fragments, a most intimate orchestra inhalation of breath, lips pressed down upon the mouthpiece and the dancing movement of fingers tapping on valves. EKG's creations are partially built around the sound of human bionics: instruments that play instruments. Kyle Bruckmann and Ernst Karel blend a combination of traditional and extended techniques on oboe, cor anglais and trumpet that are subjected to a range of non-digital electronic manipulations. But the moment where one element ends and another begins is hard to distinguish, as all the ingredients become blurred in EKG's organic sound tapestries. Darkly atmospheric tones linger beneath a host of shrill squeals, glitches and static debris that teeters with menace upon the brink of punitive white noise.
But EKG are skilful enough to keep the apocalypse in check, never allowing the sparks to catch light, constantly shifting position before the ground gives way. It's as if Supersilent abandoned their Miles Davis quotient for a pinch of AMM, or Matmos totally renounced their love affair with club culture. Like these two groups, EKG employ traditional means as a basis for creations more usually identified with the field of electronica. The disparate elements work particularly well on 'Days' (each track is titled after a measurement of time), where a subtly oscillating generator drone lurks in the near distance as Karel's plaintive trumpet cry wails amid the analogue fog.
Although No sign relies heavily on free improvisation, it manages to avoid many of the pitfalls associated with that method (often akin to driving out of a cul de sac without a map and on an empty tank). In fact, the closest comparison could be the micro-compositional works released on Bernard Gunter's Trente Oiseaux label. But for all the reference points, EKG's voice is fairly distinct and, more importantly, one that still has plenty to say.
- Spencer Grady, Dusted Magazine, September 2005
The adjective austere has had a pretty heavy possing here over the past few years (a quick click on PT's nifty homepage search engine - try it, kids! - reveals it's appeared in no fewer than 46 reviews on the site), but if ever an album truly deserved to be described as such, it's this one. For their second full-length outing after Object 2 on Locust ... EKG return to the frozen Arctic of slow, lumbering analog drone, a hostile environment in which high-speed chattery, splattery old school improv is as unwelcome as user friendly clicks'n'cuts. Few explorers who venture in return to tell the tale - Werner Dafeldecker comes to mind, as does Boris Hauf ... - the only way to survive is don protective clothes and head out into the blizzard, slowly marking out a path through the white, wind-blasted wasteland. Don't expect a hot shower and a warm bed at the end of the day, either. There is a sort of "Last Post" loneliness to Karel's trumpet on "Days", or maybe it's just my imagination. Or frostbite. I've heard that they send bright young rising star yuppies off on survival holidays into the wilds of Siberia to build rafts using nothing more than a Swiss Army knife, sail down black rivers, eat tree bark and wrestle with grizzly bears. Next time they organise one No sign should be required listening, on permanent loop. This is great stuff.
- Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic, July 2005
As soloists, double reedist Kyle Bruckmann and trumpeter Ernst Karel are versatile and fluent, but as the electroacoustic duo EKG their sound world is scrupulously bounded. Using analog electronics, they generate Geiger-counter blips, shortwave crackles, and lonesome feedback whistles. Their horns, typically routed through effects or amplified so that an intake of breath sounds like a gale-force wind, fit right in; it's a bit of a shock when Karel blows a lovely blue phrase at the beginning of 'Days,' a piece from their new CD, No sign (Sedimental).
- Bill Meyer, Chicago Reader 'Critic's Choice', 29 April 2005
Per primo l'oboista Kyle Bruckmann, che torniamo ad ascoltare ... in compagnia di Ernst Karel (tromba ed elettronica analogica) per la terza uscita della comune ragione sociale EKG.... I due si sposano perfettamente camminando sui fili sottili di esercizi di respirazione che poco devono alle microtonalità tanto in voga oggi e molto, viceversa, alle tecniche estese e alle 'respirazioni circolari' parkeriane. No sign si stacca e staglia sopra tanta fuffa camuffata da improvisata in virtù di una sorprendente originalità (il minimalismo che incontra Evan Parker, più o meno) e di idee (anche melodiche) che non si ascoltano tutti i giorni, in particolare la scia infinita di Weeks, l'austero dialogo di Days, il formidabile autocontrollo di Minutes. Bruckmann (anche al corno inglese) si conferma uno dei più validi e sottovalutati ricercatori improv di oggi.
- Stefano I. Bianchi, Blow Up 87
No sign comes from artists with a bit more exposure than Sedimental is used to; the music, also, occupies austere and familiar realms, making it less the shock-to-the-head I've come to expect from the label, however deep listening turns over a complex and powerful piece. The pin-prick-on-paper sleeve design is a nice foreshadow of the sound inside, reassuring too, as I've certainly used prickly adjectives to describe microtonal music with a significantly more maximalist approach than this. No sign's punctures are spaced to produce a decorative, even conservative aesthetic that comes through sonically as well. Kyle Bruckmann and Ernst Karel play wind instruments arranged through forcefields of analog electronic noise. Though fully engrained, their horns are nonetheless distinct and often plaintive, pooling as they do around the open spaces and between scratches of mechanical interference. The word may be "restraint," but that implies an interest in suggesting an instrument's extremes, or at least a dialogic structure in the music, neither of which are present. With EKG, texture and transition feel extra tight, precise as a cube of pin-prickings, a quality that gets reinforced by the track titles, each a time interval, traveling from "Years" down to "Seconds." As with [Brendan] Murray's Places, the focus here seems to be overlappings of sound decay rather than an emphasis on particular lushness or complexity of concrète sound environments, something closer to the work of Axel Dörner whose prolific appearances preceded EKG's in both the Sedimental and Locust catalogs. The supreme breathlessness of Karel and Bruckmann's horns gathers everything into a groaning wheeze of descent rather than the crackling of surface play that defines most else in the closest-checkable genre. No sign's uniqueness is a product of these visions of closely-structured time lapse coming together with the improvisational intentions and microscopic attentions of a thousand small sounds.
- Andrew Culler, Brainwashed
Questions de temps . . . où l'on offre à la contemplation comme l'illustration sonore et précise d'un exercice de méditation. Tranquille fusion de l'acoustique avec l'électronique. Plein, profond, calme et précieux. Allusif.
EGK [sic] are a strange affair. Despite the three wind instruments, one rarely hears them in this music.... The thing that landed on this CD is a hard to describe mixture of free improvisation and darkened, atmospherical drones in combination with microsounding crackles. Like before EGK [sic] take their inspirations from anything between Voice Crack and a much more fragmented and silent Merzbow to Morton Feldman and a whole string of microsounding composers, from Bernard Günther to Roel Meelkop. Strangely captivating music.
- Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly 480
There's more than a little of a drone aspect to it but it's ... broken up with gestural, acoustic sounds, albeit generally well disguised ones. These elements fall within range of the "standard" one hears in this area of music (not that there are all too many free oboists around): breath tones, harsh scrapes, key clicks and so on, but they're deployed quite well, serving as salient points affixed to electronic scrims that tend toward the bleak, wind-eroded and metallic. The pieces gradually grow in depth and interest; both 'Days' and 'Seconds' contain compelling passages with a strong cinematic feel to them, the contrast between reed/brass and electronics well balanced within the rough and tumble. Motors churn, heads knock, wires sizzle. Each track maintains interest in a slightly different manner, each repays repeated listenings with newly perceived angles of attack. No sign is a fine, solid recording.
- Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen, June 2005
No sign is a thoughtful combination of sweeping improvisation and composition tempered by microscopic sonic textural elements. There is a constant balance to be struck between these two and the album seesaws between fleeting moments of uneasy victory for each and those beautiful stretches when the two exist in harmony. Within this largely temporal dichotomy, the wind, brass, and electronics share duties which results in a world where the instruments are as likely to hold longer tones while static and blips scurry around them as a warm and fat electronic drone is to be chased by clipped flurries of notes from one of the horns. Despite the distinct properties of the acoustic and electronic instruments, EKG's use of analog electronics both alone and in reprocessing source acoustics helps bridge and erase any gaps and yields an overarching organic quality.
No sign is organized into seven pieces whose titles are progressively smaller units of time ("Years" down to "Seconds"). However, rather than strictly following an ever-constricting progression, the duo takes a more nuanced approach to the concept of time. It seems that for EKG, there are remarkable structural similarities at each unit of measurement much like there might appear to be subtly mutated reproductions of form in different magnifications of a fractal view. The awareness of these similarities results in a consistency of tone throughout the release even though each piece has its own internal logic and structure.
EKG is capable of a langorous lyricism ("Days") while in other cases this tendency is willfully crushed ("Hours") and ground down into a gritty landscape of fine-grained glass and silt. Open and inviting tones draw the listener in at the same time tenser noisy outbursts work to alienate. Tightly controlled grainy textures splutter to life and dissolve into hovering drones. The sequencing can be jarring (as when the largely open "Days" collides with the claustrophobic "Hours"), but the effect is of an irregular pendulum's swing - a fevered and woozy oscillation through tension and release.
- Steve Rybicki, Fake Jazz, June 2005
reviews for Object 2
Kyle Bruckmann (on English horn, suona and electronics) and Ernst Karel (trumpet and electronics), collectively known as EKG, continue the series with a set of six austere, slow moving soundscapes in keeping with the prevailing tendency in new improvised music to move away from rapid-fire interplay - improv's free jazz heritage - towards territory more traditionally associated with contemporary classical and electronic music. Assembled from recordings made between 2000 and 2002, some of which were live and slightly marred by occasional muffled coughs, "Object 2" is as much a landmark of the genre as the highly acclaimed releases on Jon Abbey's Erstwhile label. Bruckmann has in recent times preferred to downplay his dazzling virtuosity on the double reed instruments, as documented on his solo debut for Barely Auditable, "Entymology" and his outstanding collection of duets "And" on the Polish label Musica Genera, in favour of patient exploration of the microtonal and micro-timbral inflections of long-held tones, which combine with Karel's plaintive trumpet and the grainy analog electronics, blasts of white noise and crackling static to create music of an extraordinary intensity which richly repays repeated listening.
- Dan Warburton, All Music Guide / Paris Transatlantic, June 2003
Here, Bruckmann and Karel mostly eschew the event-pause-event feel of much extended-technique improvisation, instead creating dense, static-heavy soundscapes that sound a bit like Keith Rowe's recent work, even though Object 2 features a greater number of dramatic changes than a new Rowe album probably would. Like [Axel] Dörner's, EKG's music sounds something like a new sort of musique concrète: improv as the whirs and hums of everyday life. But EKG's music is more directly related to the idiom of electronic music than Dörner's, both for obvious reasons – Bruckmann and Karel actually use electronics – and not-so-obvious reasons: EKG's sustained textures are closer to those used in current non-academic experimental electronic music (which was itself born from moving-moving-always-moving DJ culture) rather than the sparser, more non-linear approach taken by improvisers like Dörner and nmperign (born, perhaps, from the non-linear phrasing of Iannis Xenakis’ stochastic electronic music).
Whatever their differences, though, Object 1 and Object 2 are both powerful statements for a new sort of improv. Dörner, [Fred] Lonberg-Holm, Bruckmann and Karel are offering new possibilities for improvisation that are far removed from the traditionally melodic, call-and-response moves of free jazz. In their own ways, Object 1 and Object 2 are fine examples of improv’s embrace of electronics – not just the technology itself, but the sounds and approaches associated with it.
- Charlie Wilmoth, Dusted Magazine, June 2003
Here the improvised music takes a different course. EGK [sic] have a strong interest in the more droning aspects of improvised music. Their sound takes long courses, which are intercepted by trumpet playing, aswell crackles of contact microphoned objects. Most of the time it stays subdued, but there are occassional outbursts of noise. It takes it's influences from anything to Bernard Gunther to Merzbow or Voice Crack to Roel Meelkop. Less traditionally improvised then the other one, but in intensity certainly no less product.
- Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly 366
The bulk of the disc's music find its genesis in EKG's manipulation of analog electronics, and even when the duo's acoustic instruments make their appearances (Bruckmann plays english horn and suona, a sort of Chinese oboe, Karel, the trumpet), they tend to do so inconspicuously, seeming to mimic the sounds of the album's electronics. Object 2 deals mainly in microscopic sound, glitchy electronic hums, crackles of static, blips and beeps, and fragile undulations. But, just as with the matches or frayed cord on the album's cover, the potential for a much more noticeable occurrence is always present, with interruptions of harsher sounds ever looming. The disc's six tracks are thoughtfully constructed and well-balanced, especially appropriate in regards to the photo of the electrical cord on the album's cover, as the listener never knows when EKG's more placid and easy-flowing moments will begin to spark, flare, or even begin to flame.
- Adam Strohm, Fake Jazz, July 2003
reviews for Shift or latch
Nur eine selbstproduzierte Mini-CD-R, dabei sollte dieses Duo längst einen ordentlichen Plattenvertrag haben (vielleicht bei ECM oder der Deutsche Grammophon?). Die Musik der beiden aus Chicago stammenden Hornisten Kyle Bruckmann und Ernst Karel ist recht inspiriert und erinnert mich eher an zeitgenössische Musik der späten 60er Jahre denn an einen gehypten Minimal Electro. Bei manchen Tracks erweitern sie ihr Sound-Spektrum mit analogen Synths, was dann wieder eher an Stockhausen-Mixes erinnern als an Frames aus dem Laptop. Es geht offensichtlich nicht um Stil, sondern um Musik, die sich im Klang, Ton, Raum und in der Zeit ausdehnt. Eine wirkliche Überraschung, und ich hoffe, demnächst mehr zu hören.
- Noël Akchoté, Skug #53, 20 April 2003