The notes that accompany this fascinating new collaboration between the four-piece Lemur and composer/pianist Reinhold Friedl describe the latter’s work with ensemble zeitkratzer as exploring “the intersection of improvisation and composition.” It is a suitable reference, one that clearly applies to Alloy.
But there is another connection point that will occur to some listeners as they take in these seven new pieces. This is an album that sits neatly into that contemporary music space that combines elements of both jazz and new classical music. It’s a thing the Europeans seem to be out front on; they have been getting this right for years. But it is not exclusive to that continent.
It has partly to do with instrumentation. Lemur features Bjørnar Habbestad on flutes, Hild Sofie Tafjord on french horn, Lene Grenager on cello and Michael Francis Duch on double bass. Mostly though, it is a contemporary music sensibility that the quartet and Friedl share.
They’ve been working together since 2015, employing extended performance techniques and a healthy dose of experimentation. The work has an openness about it that absorbs its listeners. Its density varies over the course of the album’s 48 minutes, but it never overwhelms. Even the abrasive elements have room to breathe.
Lemur formed in 2006. They’ve toured Europe extensively, and have also performed in Asia. Prior to the pandemic, the quartet curated a series of concerts entitled PB.1898 at Bomuldsfabriken Kunsthall in Arendal between 2011 and 2018.
Besides the aforementioned zeitkratzer project, Friedl also directs the Piano-Inside-Out ensemble with Michael Iber and Yun Kyung Lee. He has collaborated with an extraordinary list of new music icons, including Phill Niblock, Lou Reed, Alvin Lucier, Lee Ranaldo, Laurie Anderson and Merzbow.