Superimpose is the German, Berlin-based duo of trombonist Matthias Müller (of Splitter Orchestra) and drummer Christian Marien (of Z-Country Paradise and Insomnia Brass Band), who have been working together since 2007. This duo also works together with French pianist Eve Risser as the Cranes Trio and with Australian double bass player Clayton Thomas as the Astronomical Unit. Both Müller and Marien are explorers of the dynamic potential of their instruments, fearless improvisers, and always open to embrace new adventures and new collaborators. In 2018, Superimpose organized a free-improvised concert series in Berlin to celebrate its first decade of work and invited stimulating and distinct improvisers – Risser, British sax player John Butcher, Swedish vocal artist Sofia Jernberg and American trumpeter Nate Wooley. Butcher was invited after Müller and Marien heard him playing live. Wooley and Jernberg collaborated before with Superimpose. These concerts were documented on the new 3-disc box, the fourth release by Superimpose.
Peter Margasak, who wrote the insightful liner notes to the new box, likened these free-improvised meetings to «ships passing in the night, where the tension of unfamiliarity stokes creative flames». Müller and Marian wanted that their guests would not act as soloists, but play with Superimpose as a trio that is greater than its parts, and discover the music by playing it, and not by pre-deciding ‘how’ to play, as Butcher observed. These three performances highlight Superimpose resourceful musical qualities: openness, freedom, risk-taking and imagination.
The trio with Butcher was recorded at Studioboerne45 in Berlin and quickly finds its balance, its ever-heightened rapport and flows organically. The atmosphere of this performance is urgent and intense, tense and muscular and always inquisitive. Butcher’s sharp, sometimes microtonal shouts and cries as well as his imaginative command of extended breathing techniques, put him always in the exact spot on the fast-shifting sonic continuum of the trio, and often he acts as the missing link between Müller’s abstract, ethereal blows and the quiet storms that Marien creates on the drum set. At other times, Butcher assumes the role of a free radical that ignites the interplay in an instant. The poetic and mysterious «BMM IV» distills the exceptional creativity of this meeting, while the fast and playful «BMM VI» demonstrates the clever interplay of this ad-hoc trio where each musician constantly triangulates the sonic perspectives or provokes dissension.
The trio with Wooley was recorded at the same location, a day before the performance with Butcher. Wooley noted that Superimpose offered a feeling that this meeting was not a closed system, and allowed him to feel like a free radical who may steer the dynamics of the performance. The trio with Wooley begins with «WMM I», a hypnotic, slow-cooking drone, a piece that does not attempt to resolve its sustained tension; moves to the restless and rhythmic «WMM II» with Wolley articulating a loose melody; constructing patiently an elusive, ambiguous but detailed sonic unity and then deconstructing it into a stormy conversation on «WMM III»; and further develops its eccentric, often dense and noisy interplay, but also quiet and introspective one on «WMM IV».
The trio with Jernberg was recorded at Sound Disobedience in Ljubljana, Slovenia in March 2018. Jernberg enjoyed the deep listening qualities of Superimpose and the 27-minute «JMM I» proves that kind of assertion beautifully. The suggestive and the remarkable, expressive vocal range of Jernberg sketches a highly nuanced and deeply emotional story, sometimes sounding like following a puzzling dream and at other times sounding as telling about an eventful and mysterious adventure, but always follows its own logic. This piece is perfectly expanded and ornamented by the extended techniques of both Müller and Marien. The short «JMM II» builds on this resourceful interplay and takes it to the extreme.
The collaboration of Müller and Marien with Risser became a new working band, Cranes, and its debut album, «Formation < Deviation» was recorded at Studioboerne45 in Berlin in November 2017. The titles of the two extended free-improvisations relate to the essence of the art of the moment and in a way offer highly personal and fresh perspectives on this art, as well as sonic experiments. Risser plays most of the time inside the piano and her fantastic extended techniques trigger Müller and Marien to employ their own extended techniques and to offer on the opening piece «The Inevitability of Truth and Mistake» elusive and mysterious, kaleidoscopic conversations that have strong ritualist veins that alternate with industrial-like veins until Müller anchors this fragile interplay into a fragile melodic theme. The following «Illusion of Innocence» (a title that corresponds with AMM’s Eddie Prévost assertion that no sound is innocent, the title of his book from 1995) maintains the mysterious atmosphere but relies on eccentric yet strangely playful percussive gestures by Müller, Marien and Risser; then it morphs into a minimalist drone that still follows the fragile vibrations but within a tense texture; and later Risser and Marien suggest an uncompromising percussive pattern while Müller colors it with sharp, restless voice.
John Butcher (ts, ss), Sofia Jernberg (v), Nate Wooley (tp), Matthias Müller (tb), Christian Marien (dr, perc); Eve Risser (p)