Every year or two, trumpeter Lina Allemano releases an album (or pair of albums) that subtly pushes the improvisation world in a new direction. She does not play overtly outside nor too close to the tradition. She is adventurous while remaining listenable, simultaneously exhibiting a cool intellect and playful warmth. Each release is an exploration, and one gets the sense that Allemano does not always know the destination, but is comfortable with the uncertainty.
She also surrounds herself with like-minded musicians, whether in the Lina Allemano Four, Titanium Riot, Ohrenschmaus, or BLOOP. Here, she teams with drummer Nick Fraser, a longtime collaborator, on a set of duets. But the kicker is that four of the ten tracks are remixes of the others performed by an international cast of musicians, composers, and producers: Mira Martin-Gray, Bryan Qu, Karen Ng, and Nick Dunston.
The six pieces from just Allemano and Fraser are superb – Fraser is a busy and unconventional percussionist whose staggered rhythms complement Allemano’s twisted melodies and staccato stylings. His playing often resembles a drum solo over which she improvises variations on themes as well as solos of her own. These offerings provide a wide range of structures, colors, and dynamics, and would have made for a compelling release even without the remixes.
A notable piece is Deadly Nightshade, with Allemano’s discordant and warbling trumpet played in a muted fashion over a set of deliberate patterns. The feel is subdued yet troubled, and serves as a counterpoint to the brisker tempos of most of the other tracks. On Other Ways Number Two, Allemano pushes air through her instrument in an unorthodox fashion to create grainy textures rather than notes.
The remixes expand upon this work, but focus on minute aspects of it as well as add further layers and instrumentation. Martin-Gray creates complex but repeating loops from Fraser’s lines while picking out the breathier aspects from Allemano’s. She also adds a layered synth drone and dual-tracks the trumpet at points. Qu transforms his source material into fractured beats and electronic structures by way of synth pulses and chords. Ng has a more experimental take, leaving some of Fraser’s drumming intact while adding processed environmental noise that increases in density over time. Dunstan contributes his own experimental banjo playing, scraping and plucking to create a sound not too far from that of Bailey or Chadbourne. Perhaps most curious is that there appears to be very little if anything from Allemano and Fraser on this piece – Dunstan recreates an alternate reality version of their original track through his instrument and processing.
Needless to say, the remixes take the original recordings so far afield that one would be hard-pressed to determine that one was derived from the other. Allemano and Fraser will be releasing these ten tracks in a serial fashion, two each week, starting October 4.