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“Drempel” album reviews:

GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE (Jan. 2011)

An iconoclastic ‘new music collective’ present an impressive programme

It may have altered its name to placate a goth-rock band but new music collective Noszferatu is not out to placate its audience, provoking it with music of a stylistic diversity allied to an iconoclasm that contemporary music has not so much lost as consciously filtered out of the equation.

These works are a collective case in point. Jonathan Powell pursues an ominous and ultimately febrile interplay on the concept of “ramps”, while Andrew Poppy’s take on material that is more ingratiating proves no less systematic or uncompromising. Dave Price makes friendship with a Korean composer the basis of his journey through the “approximate infinity” of communication – ensemble played off against vocal samples to dizzying effect – whereas Paul Newland draws on Japanese culture with his less-is-more study in musical line. Howard Skempton’s miniature is as poised as any he has yet written, while Joe Cutler revisits his tribute to composer Tomasz Sikorski in music whose dissolution proves less unnerving than its anticipation. Finn Peters combines saxophone, ensemble and electronics for a study in inward extremes that ends too soon; finally, Geoff Hannan’s assembly of soundbites in a warning against the decontextualised and commerical proves more distinctive for what it is than for how it sounds.

Clear and immediate sound, courtesy of Birmingham Conservatoire’s Adrian Boult Hall, with perceptive notes from Laurence Crane (how about a disc of his music, NMC?) round out this well-sequenced and impressively realised programme. Let us have more from Noszferatu, and soon. (Richard Whitehouse)

DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY NEW YORK (Dec. 2010)

Noszferatu features Finn Peters on sax & flute, Ivo De Greef on piano and Dave Price on percussion with Joe Cutler as creative consultant. This is one of the oddest and most compelling discs that I’ve received of music from contemporary British composers. Besides the two more well-known composers, Howard Skempton & Andrew Poppy, three of the four members of the quartet contribute pieces as well as those from Jonathan Powell, Paul Newland and Geoff Hannan. The strange this is that it sounds more like a shrewd trio of improvisers with some smart tricks up their sleeves. Well regarded composer Joe Cutler is also an integral member of the group, helping to focus their individual talents. The title piece, “Drempel” was written by Jonathan Powell and it is a most intense work. I am reminded of AMM, where each note is carefully placed and balanced between cautiousness and explosiveness. Composer Andrew Poppy is a favorite of mine and Manny’s and someone whose music I don’t hear (about) often enough. His piece here, “How The Hammer Felt” is for flute, piano & vibes. It is a minimalist piece with short repeating figures and it is most charming. One of the highlights of this disc is Dave Price’s “Lee’s Game” which features layers of sampled voices. It is both hilarious and fascinating in its use of multiple voices placed in precise sections. Paul Newland’s “Trance” shifts between extremely quiet and louder, more abrupt sections in a way that is jarring yet effective. While Skempton’s “In Tandem” has an exquisite, jewelry-box like melody, Mr. Cutler’s “Sikorski B” has a quaint, dream-like quality with each instrument moving in different orbits around one another. What makes this disc so special is that each piece fits perfectly with what comes before and what comes after, like a series of strong chapters in a great novel. (Bruce Lee Gallanter)

PAUL GRIFFITHS – RECORD OF THE WEEK (Dec. 2010)

Their lineup of sax (Finn Peters), percussion (Dave Price) and piano (Ivo De Greef) gives the group Noszferatu ready access to that busy hinge between jazz and New York minimalism also occupied by Bang on a Can and the Dutch post-Andriessen gang. This is a place where energy counts, but so does precision, and Noszferatu show plentiful amounts of both in their debut recording (NMC D166), which features works by British composers, most of them writing for these players. Given the neon-nocturne, city-lights premise, the range is broad – from the ominous unfolding of Jonathan Powell’s Drempel, well chosen as the title track (that title coming from the Dutch road sign ‘Let op! Drempel’, advising drivers of a coming ramp), to the sweet-natured English take on Reich and Glass offered by Andrew Poppy’s How The Hammer Felt. Maybe the standout piece – certainly for humour – is Dave Price’s Lee’s Game, based on snatches of recorded speech from a Korean friend with whom Price communicates in a macaronic mix of English, Korean and Polish. By no means just funny, also touching, the piece is most obviously a commentary on the tripups that will happen – but also the leaps – when people run up to the edges of their linguistic boundaries. But since the players have to keep pace with the recorded voice, in timing and accentuation, this ten-minuter is also a virtuoso challenge, brilliantly answered here. From Joe Cutler, who as ‘creative associate’ makes this trio a quartet, comes Sikorski B, worrying at a haunting phrase. Paul Newland’s Trance takes a different line, disturbing in how the same melodic spaces are re-encountered from everchanging angles and approaches. There is also, not written for the ensemble but obviously unmissable, a tantalising piece by Howard Skempton for piano and vibraphone: In Tandem, a simple statement that keeps revolving but remains a puzzle. (Paul Griffiths)

JAZZWISE MAGAZINE (Dec. 2010/Jan. 2011)

A lot of jazz musicians pay lip service to the idea of incorporating classical elements into their work – but here’s a contemporary classical ensemble unafraid to bring jazz into the mix. The quartet met in the 1990s while studying at Durham University and – notwithstanding the presence of top UK sax/flute man Peters – have operated in classical music’s shadowy underworld since. Here they tackle eight pieces by modern British composers, revealing a wide repertoire and a sweeping range of moods.

Jonathan Powell’s ‘Drempel’ is a dense and complex piece full of turbulent piano clusters, orchestral percussion and anguished rasps – which, though fully scored, actually resembles post-Cecil Taylor free jazz. Andrew Poppy’s “How The Hammer Felt’ is an exercise in Philip Glass-like chiming insistence, with vibraphone, piano and flute. If a couple of pieces feel a little polite in places, Peters’ own ‘The Horses Screamed’ is a welcome burst of malevolence, with processed sax brewing an uncomfortable storm. *** (Daniel Spicer)

THE SUNDAY TIMES (Nov. 2010)

Noszferatu, as recorded here, is a trio of players – the saxophonist Finn Peters, the percussionist Dave Price and the pianist Ivo De Greef, with the composer Joe Cutler billed as “creative associate” – but really a collective of composer-performers representing a diversity of contemporary styles. Powell’s arresting Drempel, first of the eight items by different hands, combines jazz and the busy figuration of “new complexity” with witty fluency. Andrew Poppy’s How The Hammer Felt is scintillating, happy minimalism. Howard Skempton’s minimalistic In Tandem lasts three minutes, but seems long. Geoff Hannan’s Bubblegum is a jerky collage of gobbets of “found” material, wryly savouring its disposability. ***