int015 | Songs | 1 & 2

1 & 2

Six Scenes of Boredom (15:47)
Three Lives (29:57)

CD, digisleeve, insert / edition of 200
08 September 2015

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Intonema вновь расширяет границы каталога: в этот раз мы издали современную композиторскую музыку. Берлинский квартет Songs - это бас-кларнетист Лусио Капесе, вокалистка и скрипачка Кэтрин Лэм, тромбонист и композитор Ришин Сингх, вокалистка Стине Штерне. Они играют песни Сингха и таковых на альбоме всего две. Академический саунд, минималистичные структуры, деликатная и выверенная игра музыкантов от еле слышимых шорохов до богатых тембрами созвучий. Таков их дебютный релиз.

Intonema broadens the stylistic range of its catalog again, this time we produced an album of contemporary music. Songs is a quartet hailing from Berlin with Lucio Capece on bass clarinet, Catherine Lamb as vocalist and violist, Rishin Singh as trombonist and composer, and Stine Sterne as vocalist. They perform two of Singh’s songs which make up the album of minimalist structures, delicate and precise gestures, and a sonority ranging from lush to the austere. That’s how their debut album sounds. 

Lucio Capece: bass clarinet
Catherine Lamb: voice and viola
Rishin Singh: trombone and composition
Stine Sterne: voice

Рецензии / Reviews:
"Songs is a quartet made up of Lucio Capece (bass clarinet), Rishin Singh (trombone), Stine Sterne (voice) and Catherine Lamb (viola, voice). They perform two pieces of Singh's, 'Six Scenes of Boredom' and 'Three Lives'. Despite a title designed to give the malicious critic an easy foothold, the first track is anything but boring. Long, staggered lines, largely in the mid to low registers, from the horns and viola lay beneath the occasional vocal which does carry with it something of a song-lyric aspect, just detached from its stanza and floating. There's a certain amount of stasis, though also some fine melancholy in some of the shorter, two-note sequences, a resignedness, maybe. 'Three Lives', while retaining many of the same general forms as heard in the first piece (the long, blurred, low lines) contains more frequent vocal passages and thus arguably connotes more of the idea of "song". Again, however, these words are sung in short clusters (here, both Lamb and Sterne) and allowed to suspend. When sung in near unison, using a single note, there's a surprisingly urgent sense of drama imparted. (The words are fairly indecipherable, at least by me, but "cocaine" is repeated). It may overstay its welcome just a little bit, but a lovely work nonetheless. I hope Songs, the ensemble, is a continuing project and eagerly look forward to more."
(Brian Olewnick, Just Outside)
"Movimenti lenti e ascensionali, due lunghi intrecci di stringhe di suono minimale, trattenuto e deflagrato fino a somigliar ad una folk song senza tempo di cenere e vento (una Shirley Collins ambientalizzata oltre la soglia della dispersione?).
Lisergia gorgoglio/dronante in apparenza senza peso ma in realtà bel tondino massiccio a strapparti fuor di scarpe (una linea retta fra astrazioni e astrazioni, da Feldman a Conrad).
Nel mezzo dell'immobilità che precede l'alba, una voce attenta a non sovrastar il tremolante fermo immagine.
Pulviscolo in sospensione, spazio e silenzi, l'impatto di una porta chiusa.
Legno scheggiato dal tempo e dita a sfiorarlo.
Lucio Capece (clarinetto basso), Catherine Lamb (voce e viola), Rishin Singh (composizioni e trombone), Stine Sterne (voce).
Una fluttuazione percettibile appena oltre il campo visivo.
Il suono di una rallentata torsione."

(Marco Carcasi, Kathodik)

"The most delightful surprise so far from this package has been the CD credited to Songs, a Berlin-based quartet of composers and musicians. 1 & 2 features two compositions by the Australian trombonist Rishin Singh, who I haven’t heard before. I have heard and enjoyed the composer Catherine Lamb, who plays viola and sings here, so I put the disc on. The first piece, Six Scenes of Boredom, features a trio playing slow, almost quaint chord changes, occasionally enlightened by a female voice singing brief, pithy phrases. There’s an air of eccentric decay that’s quite English in character. I mean it as a compliment when I say it would fit nicely on a 1970s LP released on the Obscure label.
The real revelation here is Three Lives, a work almost half an hour in length for two female voices, bass clarinet and trombone. Long held tones, very little movement in pitch from one breath to the next. It feels like a single reflective moment, frozen in time. Strangely, any development in melody goes almost unnoticed when I listen, as though it were a lesser concern, until one quiet but significant shift. The two voices, each apparently untrained, sing as though a single voice echoed or multiplied. Clarinet and trombone play beautifully together, the latter almost unnoticeable, perceived only as a soft echo. In contrast to this stillness, the recording makes no attempt to conceal blemishes. The recording is obviously live, with faint background sounds audible, locating the music in a place and time. Against this background, four musicians briefly hold time in suspense."

(Ben Harper, Boring Like A Drill)

"We’ve heard the Australian trombonist and composer Rishin Singh before as part of the ensemble of players directed by Jason Kahn on his Open Space double-album, a fine piece of radical composition using graphic scores, noted here. He’s also been recorded as one half of improvising duo Black Cracker. Well, Singh is here now composing his own works as part of the small ensemble Songs, on the album 1 & 2 (INTONEMA int015). The quartet comprises himself; Lucio Capece, the Argentinean puffer who yields his bass clarinet here like a silent black panther; Catherine Lamb, who sings and plays viola; and the vocalist Stine Sterne. They appear to be based in Berlin just now; at least they stayed there long enough for Adam Asnan to capture these two works in 2014 and 2015.

They turn in two exceptional pieces of back-to-basics modernism: slow, minimal, enigmatic, formed mostly of long-form drones played and sung with the rigidity of an iron bar. Listeners who like their music “supple” or “flexible” are advised to stay away from these poised and mannered statements; just listening gives us the mental image of two angelic soprano singers in a choir dressed in stiff white outfits, never moving a muscle as they deliver their mysterious vocal plaints, which might contain any emotion from distant sorrow to restrained, modified, joy. The bass clarinet and trombone also maintain a highly formal stance, barely daring to stain the silence with anything more than a careful monotonous utterance, each phrase laid down with the care of a grocer carrying 15 fresh eggs.

As modernism goes, this might not be as perfectly distilled and refined as Morton Feldman, but what is? I like the studied deliberation of the playing, which borders on being awkward, and once you’ve passed through the initial feelings of vague embarrassment, you’ll achieve a certain qualified rapture from the inner stillness that forms the core of these two long works. Their titles, by the way, are ‘Three Lives’ (the very long one), and – wait for it – ‘Six Scenes Of Boredom’. The latter title is a real classic, another one to file away in my imaginary library of plays never written by Eugene Ionesco or Samuel Beckett, and it admits upfront to all the charges which non-believers care to level at modern composition. 1 & 2 is frankly a very boring record, but I embrace this boredom, and you should too. At a time when the world has gone mad trying to pursue empty novelty and reduce our attention spans to less time than it takes to blink a gnat’s eye, we should welcome the chance to concentrate our minds on something as challenging as this still, near-geometric music. Rishin Singh’s profile has now been raised two notches on the mantelpiece.

This is also an exceptional record for the catalogue of this Russian label. Ilia Belourkov (who also did production and design) is genuinely committed to radical art, and he’ll try anything…from 26th October 2015."

(Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector)

"Das Quartett Songs spielt auf seinem Debutalbum 1+2 zwei Kompositionen des jungen Posaunisten Rishin Singh aus Kuala Lumpur. Seine Musik zeichnet sich durch langsame Verläufe und durch einen bewussten Umgang mit Klang und Stille aus. Six scenes of boredom, Titel Nummer eins, gleicht Strichen in unterschiedlichen (Klang-)Farben, die vom Ensemble, bestehend aus Lucio Capece an der Bassklarinette, Catherine Lamb an Bratsche und Stimme, Stine Sterne, Stimme, und Rishin Singh selbst an der Posaune, sehr präzise gespielt werden; manchmal klingen einzelne dieser Striche auch etwas schmutzig und kratzig, was dieser Komposition nur zu Gute kommt, denn so erhält die Musik diese Lebendigkeit und wirkt nicht allzu steril. Bescheidenheit und Sensibilität scheint für Singh das Credo zu sein, und das berührt hier gleich 15 Minuten lang am Stück. Mit der zweiten Nummer Three lives driftet das Quartett noch einen Schritt weiter ins Meditative ab. Hier blitzt OM’s Album Pilgrimage (2007, Southern Lord) immer wieder auf, das rockige Pendant zu diesem Stück. Die Instrumente treten in den Hintergrund und machen Platz für Lamb und Sternes Stimmen, die Mantra-Gesängen gleichen. Wiederholende Strukturen stehen im Zentrum, und es verändert sich musikalisch nicht allzuviel. Songs' Album 1+2 garantiert Entschleunigung."
(Katrin Hauk, freistil 65)

"As it reaches the fifth anniversary of its first release, it seems a fitting time to reflect on how Intonema is progressing. Initially, the label attracted attention because it was based in St. Petersburg, on Russian soil, a novelty at the time. The early releases on the label featured Russian-based musicians, including the Intonema proprietors saxophonist Ilia Belorukov and bass guitarist Mikhail Ershov. Gradually the roster became more international, so that the third and fourth Intonema releases featured no Russian musicians—Axon (2011), by the Franco-German duo Myelin, and Concret (2012), by the Iberian trio Atolón. The expansion of the label's horizons has continued apace, but Intonema has still continued to feature an impressive array of Russian improvisers. And whatever the musicians' nationality, the quality of the label's releases remains high—as is evident in the three latest releases...

"Songs" is the name of the Berlin-based quartet consisting of the Argentinean bass clarinetist Lucio Capece (whose 2013 album Less is Less -Music for Flying and Pendulating Speakers is a past Intonema highlight), Malaysian-born trombonist and composer Rishin Singh, US-born violinist & vocalist Catherine Lamb and vocalist Stine Sterne. With two vocalists in the line-up (plus that group name) it is not surprising that the album's music actually consists of performances of two songs, both composed by Singh, intriguingly entitled "Six Scenes of Boredom" and "Three Lives," and running for fifteen and twenty-seven minutes respectively.

The two pieces are called "songs" because they feature vocals, but in other respects they hardly justify the description as they have no recognisable song structure, no chorus and no bridge. However, the vocal performances are strong throughout, remaining the centre of attention and more than justifying that "songs" tag. Each piece features a series of sustained notes from the instruments and voices, notes which overlap and fit together well without constructing any particularly memorable melodies or harmonies. Despite the songs' intriguing titles, the vocals convey little meaning; the voices are laden with emotion and are a delight from start to finish, most notably when they both sing together on "Three Lives." The use of songs here does not represent a revolution for Intonema, this album being just as exploratory and adventurous as any in the label's catalogue. 1 & 2 is an album that demands to be heard; do not miss it!  "

(John Eyles, All About Jazz)

"Sur le premier disque du quartette Songs, c’est l’alto de Catherine Lamb qui perce d’abord : au son d’une note tenue que reprendront le trombone de Rishin Singh (qui signe les deux compositions qui font ce disque), la clarinette de Lucio Capece puis la voix de Stine Sterne. Et c’est Sterne qui transforme la ligne conductrice en chanson.

Pas une chanson de tous les jours, bien sûr. Mais une chanson lente – à l’instar de celles de Marianne Schuppe – faite de mots précautionneusement déposés sur les longues notes que se repassent les instruments et qui parfois se chevauchent. A l'arrière du grand vaisseau que conduisent ses trois accompagnateurs, Sterne chante des couplets rompus aux discrétions de phrases suspendues, et arrive le refrain.

C’est en fait une seconde chanson (Three Lives), qui accordera la voix de Sterne et celle de Lamb. Unissons ou légers décalages, le mot est moins rare et, comme la lenteur instrumentale est la même, on peut le croire impatient. Plus affectée, la seconde chanson est en conséquence plus conventionnelle. On préférera ainsi le couplet au refrain, en attendant d'entendre une troisième chanson."

(Guillaume Belhomme, Le Son Du Grisli

"Альбом состоит из двух монохромных треков, – вокал в сопровождении духовых и струнных “длиннот”. Обе пьесы написаны тромбонистом Ришином Сингхом (Rishin Singh) для квартета: сам он играет на тромбоне, Лусио Капесе (Lucio Capece) на бас-кларнете, Кэтрин Лэм (Catherine Lamb) поёт и играет на альте, Стине Штерне (Stine Sterne) поёт.

Вторая вещь, которая называется “Три жизни”, основана на искаженном тексте Гертруды Стайн. Инструменты по отношению к голосу выполняют аккомпанирующую функцию, хотя это и сказано несколько странно в контексте установившегося симультанного подхода в современном импрове. Уровень громкости голосов превосходит другие инструменты почти в два раза. Сначала подобная иерархия настораживает, но ближе к концу первого трека ухо адаптируется к звуковой ситуации, и начинаешь различать оттенки исполнения. Большинство ассоциаций – с музыкой позднего средневековья и Возрождения, где одновременные звучания тонов ещё не обрели гармоническую “вертикаль”. В общем, это довольно “красивые” медленные песни, подходящие для многоразового прослушивания. По-сути – это раскопки той же синусоидальной микротональной музыки, только при помощи акустических инструментов и голосов. Обращает на себя внимание и способ записи: рассадка музыкантов относительно микрофонов – максимально близкое положение к слушателю; эффект помещения, реверберация, столь любимая, скажем, Майклом Пизаро (Michael Pisaro), сведена к минимуму."

(Андрей Поповский, Современная Музыка)

"It sounds fragile at first, tentative almost, the slow bass clarinet and trumpet phrases almost unwilling to come into existence, the viola uneasy, the voice trying out these elongated stabs of melody like warmup exercises. You think of a beach, the weather cloudy, and the pasty holidaymaker taking their first wincing steps into a grey sea. But then you realise that it’s you, not them, that is out of sync, accustomed as you are to brash intros, that ‘1-2-3-4!’ of The Ramones and their punk hinterland, the brassy stabs of those Blue Note records, the total immersion of the noise crews. You realise that what you see as fragility is actually strength, that every note played has been considered deeply before being deployed perfectly. Every possible path has been assessed until this one has been decided on. This is the only path, in fact, until the next one.

These two pieces, composed by Rishin Singh and performed by a quartet of Lucio Capece (bass clainet), Catherine Lamb (viola and voice), Stine Stern (voice) and Singh himself on trombone, are released on Ilia Belorukov’s St. Petersburg Intonema imprint. It’s a slight departure for the label, their first foray into modern composition, in fact, but there’s a similar quality and fidelity to this release that binds it to what is becoming an impressive back catalogue. It probably won’t surprise anyone to say that the long, pure lines of sound – not so much melody as luminous essences – exert some familial resemblance to the Wandelweiser lot. After all, Singh is involved in a score research project with Johnny Chang and is part of Berlin’s Konzert Minimal group devoted to performing the collective’s works. In particular, the unruffled, diamond-tough surfaces of 1&2 resemble the wide, quiet soundscapes of Jürg Frey in the way they seem to evoke almost endless planes of some unknown acoustic material.

I would guess too that Singh is exploring, in his own way, that peculiar form of post-Cageian reductionism that, if anything, binds together both those in the Wandelweiser collective and in the wider, post-Wandel diaspora. Singh seems to be asking: how much can you remove from the song form for it still to remain a song? Melody, harmony, rhythm… perhaps all you need is a voice, of which breath is a key component. And perhaps all of the different constituents of these two songs could be said to approximate to slow breaths – even that keening viola, the one instrument here that doesn’t require an application of air from the lungs to produce a note – the eternal inhalation and exhalation that forms the vital function of a human’s existence. A chorale of the body, almost.

Silence is here, of course, but rather than surrounding and enveloping the playing, it seems to be placed horizontally, between the planes, as a kind of protective layer, absorbing and magnifying the unhurried resonances of the quarter. But it’s those voices, from Catherine Lamb and Stine Stern that gives 1&2 such a distinctive aura, adding warmth to what would otherwise be slightly frosty pieces, but at the same time adding an eerie, haunted atmosphere. At times, I’m reminded of the stillness and focus of Ashley Paul, with the strangeness increased by the stretched vowel sounds that renders the words themselves almost unintelligible. One can sometimes hear fragments (“Lights out…lights out….lights out,” for example, in Three Lives), but for the most part these seem like messages from another world, borne through space on the soft-edged bass throb of trombone or bass clarinet, or the harder, woodier grain of Lamb’s own viola. Voices made of light, singing through the void."

(Paul Margree, We need no swords)

"Le quartet Songs provient de l'avant-garde académique berlinoise avec Lucio Capece (bcl), Catherine Lamb (vocals, vln), Stine Sterne (vocals) et Rishin Singh (tb), qui interprètent ici deux longues pièces composées par Singh : « Six Scenes od Boredom » (15'14) et « Three Lives » (26'57). Dans chaque cas, le quatuor tisse une litanie minimaliste, inlassable répétition des timbres monocordes de chacun qui se superposent le temps d'un accord étiré, jalonnée par des instants de silence. L'ensemble se meut avec une lenteur hypnotique, enfle et se désenfle comme une respiration endormie. Une musique en suspension, pour méditation en apesanteur."
(Mark Sarrazy, Improjazz)

"From Berlin hails the quartet Songs - why not indeed that word for a band name! And the great thing is, the two pieces hardly sounds like songs in a traditional sense of the word. While on paper this seems to be a group of improvisers, the cover says that Rishin Singh not just plays the trombone but also gets the credit for composing. The other members are Lucio Capece (bass clarinet), Catherine Lamb (voice and viola) and Stine Sterne (voice). The music, recorded on two different occasions by Adam Asnan (who also mixed these pieces), is very carefully played by this quartet. 'Six Scenes Of Boredom' is fifteen minutes and 'Three Lives' is almost twenty-seven minutes. Both of these pieces are very minimal, with very few sounds. All of the instruments produce very low and long form sounds and Sterne's voice sounds clearly on top of that playing. In the first song this is at it's most minimal, sometimes with hardly any sound at all, but I must say that it is 'Three Lives' which I really enjoyed. Here the voice seems double tracked, or otherwise a bit of reverb has been added, with creates a refined richness to Sterne's voice. The instruments guide her singing very well. It has a spooky, haunted quality. It is almost folk-like; the singing is not wordless but actual lyrics, which I didn't easily follow, but then: I never do that. An excellent release."
(Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly)