Oguz BŁyŁkberber/Tobias Klein
Reverse Camouflage


A cover whose various images look quite anonymous and nondescript, and whose connection to the material featured on the album appears to be non-existent to me (and why didn't they use a few pictures of the musicians shown while playing their instruments, or some liner notes about the recording process?) is the inadequate presentation of some of the finest music I've listened to in the last few months.

Though - at a bit above 55' - by no means short, Reverse Camouflage will intrigue and fascinate listeners, with a fine recorded sound (the music was recorded by BŁyŁkberber and Klein, with mixing and mastering work done by sound engineer Micha de Kanter), a vivacious timbral palette, a fine sense of balance between improvisation and composition, a stylistic variety that doesn't detract from a sense of unity and coherence, and an astute use of overdubbing that greatly benefits the whole.

It's only my fear of finding a small crowd of angry readers carrying big sticks waiting for me as I come home at night that prevents me from calling this album "surprisingly accessible", though I really think it is, thanks to a clarity of ideas and a distillation process of what's played, thanks to what I imagine to be a long process of synthesis. (An album like this can only be the result of a long past work done together, even if the cover doesn't say.)

About ten years ago, the bizarre album called President Of The Globe made it possible for me to "discover" (alto) sax and clarinet player Tobias Klein. While my knowledge of the work by Oguz BŁyŁkberber is quite more recent, and a lot more "selective". Reverse Camouflage features both Klein and BŁyŁkberber on clarinet, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet. The liner notes don't say on which side of the stereo spread they appear, and my familiarity with their timbre is not enough to make me guess. As it's to be expected, the timbral palette is on the "dark" side, but timbres go all the way towards the alto sax and tenor sax realm, with squeaks, reed overtones in the flute range, and "noises" that say that we are listening to an album of "modern music".

Jazz is obviously featured as a language, with a few moments showing literal connections, and no fear whatsoever of appearing tonally predictable. While there are also sound explorations, "dancing" rhythms, and a palette of styles that are carefully executed and far from being "tentative".

Listeners are invited to a first-hand exploration of this album. What follows is just a list of a few noteworthy moments among many.

Eptaenneadeka travels between the "Ethnic" and the "Blues", in the territory between berimbau and mouth harp, with a time signature that reminded me of a "looped" figure, with echoes of tenor sax and conch shell. A track that's obviously composed.

Pallidus opens rubato, halfway between Eric Dolphy (mostly for the timbre of the sound palette) and Thelonious Monk (mostly for reminding me of the mood of the original version of 'Round Midnight). Here the clarinets are engaged in a fine dialogue.

Nox offers a framework with percussive and blowing air elements, with apparent use of overdubbing. Then, instruments play unison, with a "beating oscillators" effect that reminded me of the work done by Richard Teitelbaum on the modular Moog on the album Time Zones. A pointillistic episode follows. There's another "oscillator" episode. A written track that makes fine use of its duration.

Superciliosus offers an agitated mood, with a fine contrast between a "free-sounding saxophone" and a "chamber-like" counterpoint. Fine use of overdubbing.

Diminutus starts with a "free-sounding" palette, ŗ la Rova. There's a fine variety of timbres and "characters". There's a fine melodic phrase, and a melodic dialogue.

Arborescens has a percussive start, with reed squeaks. There's an agile rhythmic figure that sounds quite "Brazilian" to me. What follows underlines the percussive nature of the track, which - though quite accessible - is much easier to listen to than to describe.

Selene offers a "light", "cool-sounding", melody, whose rhythmic development is made less predictable by the work of the other clarinet. After a brief episode featuring "held" notes, the instruments change roles. (That's what it sounds like to me!)

Bimaculatus features an arpeggio clarinet, with the other instrument that appears to comment, after a delay, on what the first instrument just said. It reminded me of Rova, or a string quartet. Then there's a "B" section that's more "lyrical"-sounding, quite "hushed".

Veligero features a "lyrical-sounding" solo instrument sounding halfway between a flute and a clarinet with a percussive/meditating counterpoint coming from the other side. The "cloth" becomes progressively more "dense"-sounding and "Braxton-like", with the whole that would appear more "traditional" with the backing of a rhythm section. A fine use of overdubbing creates a "swinging" reed section full of verve.

Niveus features a soft-, light-sounding pedal (as per its title?), fading in. (In a way, it could be said to be somewhat similar to Roscoe Mitchell's Tnoona, but without the drama.)

Argus sounds surprisingly "funky", with the bass clarinet to the fore and a very fine solo part. There's a very strong percussive element, with a "berimbau" and various percussion.

Tenebricus features a very "traditional-sounding" unison that reminded me of the famous Eric Dolphy track Something Sweet, Something Tender (off Out To Lunch, 1964). Two clarinets engaged in a lyrical dialogue.

Tung Sten starts with "subwoofer" sounds, a meditation for low tones, then a low-sounding pedal growing in volume. Bass unison. Long drones. There's a "cut" at about 4' 20", with a "Hopper-like" melody and an ascending development. At about 5' 50" a vivacious rhythm in the bass register, then starting at 6' 26" sound lines like a synth with generous use of an LFO. A fine composed episode that brings the album to an appropriate close.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2016

CloudsandClocks.net | Mar. 17, 2016

P. S. 23/03/16:
Today I received a message from Tobias Klein, stating that - in so, differently from what I assumed - there are no overdubs on this album.