«In Air» is the debut album of the free improvising trio Tern of British violinist-electronics player Philipp Wachsmann, known for his collaborations with Evan Parker and Keith Tippett and his work with London Improvisers Orchestra and King Übü Örchestrü, analog synth (Korg MS10) player Martin Hackett, and Norwegian-born drummer Emil Karlsen, both also played in the London Improvisers Orchestra. Tern began working in 2019, and Waschmann explains the trio’s unique instrumentation, as well as the interactions between the three improvisers’ spaces , create a sound landscape in which the listener joins completing the fourth space. The album features two pieces recorded at Sounds Like This festival in Leeds in March 2020 and three studio pieces recorded in December 2019 and was released on Waschmann’s label Bead Records with FMR.
The unique instrumentation led to the distinct sonic identity of Tern, and challenges the experienced Waschmann, Hackett and Karlsen to establish new dynamics that would liberate all from familiar improvisation strategies, «recognized in each other a commonality of approach to improvisation, based on each musician’s concern with the expressive physicality of their instrument’s sound». The five pieces highlight the trio’s detailed but sometimes quite chaotic, conversational improvisations.
The live pieces are more collision-headed on the live pieces while the atmosphere of the studio pieces is surprisingly introspective and chamber, obviously, in Tern’s own special, twisted way. Waschmann employs the violin as an instrument with potential for athletic narrative and a tool that enables «freedom to be and to do», and often focuses on exotic Far-Eastern sonorities. Hackett’s vintage synth emulates human voices and abstract mechanical sounds, fluent with control, articulation, process and surprise. Karlsen uses his drum kit for creating subtle colors and a spacious rhythmic basis.
These imaginative improvisers exhaust the full palette of the colorful acoustic and electronic sounds of their instruments. They juggle with fleeting, melodic ideas, strange and ethereal noises and clever rhythmic games, with no attachment to any sound or dynamics, and only with an adventurous sense of invention, irony and wild imagination.
Philipp Wachsmann (vio, elec), Martin Hackett (Korg MS10); Emil Karlsen (dr)