Somnambule - Writing About Music

Axel Doerner - Greg Kelley - Andrea Neumann - Bhob Rainey

It must be the noise of gravel on a turntable, or something similar. Perhaps it’s the noise of cement in a mixer with the microphone rolling round and round, submerging and emerging with the spinning of the drum. The sound of breath is certainly audible somewhere in there – perhaps that’s Axel Doerner or Greg Kelley playing into his trumpet. Later there’s an unholy wind and scrabbling too, something metal and rubber being manipulated. Kelley/Doerner become clearer all the time while the mournful cry of Bhob Rainey’s saxophone emits squeaks and curls. High pitches meld with bestial grunts and sawings, the latter perhaps produced by Andrea Neumann’s innenklavier (also referred to as a dismantled piano). The first, 12 minute track draws to a close borne on low rumbles.

The second piece – 23 minutes long – is ushered in on flatulent noises, chimes and the silvered hiss of escaping air. The sounds become increasingly apprehensive as the group ratchet up the tension. In listening to these performers foreground the movement of air, it’s difficult not to consider its preciousness, to begin reflecting upon the dangers of decompression high up in the air or deep under the sea. Close listening prompts an unconscious concern that one might be short of breath. Is somebody screaming? The sound eludes easy definition. A trumpet metamorphoses into a wolf-like howl, then an almost inhuman lament. Towards the end, sax and trumpet unite in a single long-held, wavering note, something like an air-raid siren, a warning perhaps.

It’s the presence of breath that delineates and focuses the spaces that the quartet explore, but also perhaps the spaces that govern us all. This element is the defining mark of these three performances, all recorded on an American tour. The listener’s free as always to interpret that pressurised strain metaphorically or leave it just as sound.
Colin Buttimer
September 2005
Published by e/i Magazine