STEUART LIEBIG/MINIM:
Sulphur

Reviews/Press

 

 

 

Sulphur

 

Minim features Andrew Pask on clarinets, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, Steuart Liebig on unprepared and unprepared contrabass guitars and compositions and Brad Dutz on drums, percussion & marimba. This is L.A. bassist and composer, Steuart Liebig's 6th disc for pfMentum and the second with his quartet Minim. "Sulphur" consists of two long pieces and one relatively short one. "Kaleidoscope" is almost 45-minutes in length and contains 23 miniature parts. Minim is a unique chamber quartet for clarinets and& bassoon with Steuart's brilliant custom-made contrabass guitars and pfMentum leader, Brad Dutz on drums. Each miniature features different solos, duos, trios and the quartet and each is demanding in one way or another. Sometimes spacious, sometimes busy but always thoughtfully written and well-played. "Cherry Blossom" is based on a haiku (ED NOTE: Wrong tune ascribed to haiku) and has some quirky yet playful music, moving from duos to quartet in sections and is quietly fascinating. "Necrological Pieties" seems to be free yet minimal, but it fits together in a way that is cautious but difficult to describe. Another unique offering from Steuat Liebig and Minim.
BLG (DMG Newsletter)

 


The music of composer and bassist Steuart Liebig frequently has the sound of freely improvised avant-garde jazz, and while his band Minim is called on to improvise in one of the pieces (ED NOTE: Actually this is wrong, there is improvisation in every single piice on this disc. Even if you include notes about what you're doing, people don't read about them; see here), his music is often constructed and structured using sophisticated pre-compositional procedures. The makeup of the ensemble contributes to the jazz sound -- Minim's members are Andrew Pask on clarinets, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, and percussionist Brad Dutz, with the composer playing a variety of bass guitars. Each of Kaleidoscope's 23 very short movements is based on the poetic structure of Haiku, and the scoring includes solos, duets, and trios in addition to the full quartet. Liebig's creative use of extended instrumental techniques and various timbral combinations keep the piece moving. The longer, single-movement The cherry blossom is only perfect when it's falling from the tree also uses Haiku as a structural determinant, and has a more conventionally "new music" sound -- the instruments' largely independent, apparently unrelated lines create a sense of barely controlled chaos that keeps the attentive listener focused on its unpredictable development, and recurring sections provide some sense of orientation. The brief Necrological Pieties, with a title taken from Borges, creates a variety of timbres by exploring extended techniques using an expanded percussion battery. Minim plays with assurance and conviction. The album should be of interest to fans of crossover music blending elements of free jazz and classical avant-garde.
Stephen Eddins, All Music Guide

 

Auf Sulphur (pfMENTUM CD046) präsentiert STEUART LIEBIG mit seinem Kammermusikquartett MINIM drei neue Kompositionen. Das dreiviertelstündige ‚Kaleidoscope‘ besteht aus 23 auf Haikus basierenden Miniaturen. ‚The Cherry Blossom Is Only Perfect When It‘s Falling From The Tree‘ ist ein harmonisches Palindrom aus 13 Teilen in einem durchgehenden Satz und operiert dabei mit Terzinen, dem von Dante erfundenen Terza Rima-Reimschema a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c, d-e-d. Das kurze Quasirequiem ‚Necrological Pieties‘, für eine Choreographie geschrieben, hat seinen Titel von J.L. Borges entliehen. In Minim begegnet man erneut Andrew Pask an Klarinette & Bassklarinette, Sara Schoenbeck spielt Fagott, Brad Dutz Marimba, Percussion & Drums und der Composer selbst ist an seinen, zum Teil präparierten Kontrabassgitarren zu hören. Liebig macht die ‚Kaleidoscope‘-Miniaturen betont transparent und, der Haikupoesie entsprechend, frei von allem Überflüssigen, indem er die Vierstimmigkeit immer wieder ausdünnt. Der Klangfächer wird gebunden durch die Bass- und Kontrabasstonlagen, die oft holzigen Percussiontupfer, das schnarrende Röhren des Fagotts, das Schoenbeck selten in die Tenorlage aufhellen darf. Drei- & vierstimmige Momente wie XI und gleichzeitig quicke wie XII, XIII oder XVI wirken prompt opulent und übermütig. Mimin komplett, wie bei XIV, XVIII oder XXIII, ist fast schon Artrock. Der Gesamteindruck ist der einer originellen Simplizität, einer skurrilen Nyktophilie mit einer Vorliebe für die 17 (den 5-7-5 Moren eines Haiku) und den sprunghaften Humor eines Kobayashi Issa. Eine sprungund geräuschhafte Pointillistik bestimmt auch den Charakter der pietätischen Miniatur. Der Tod schleift seine Sense, die Uhr tickt, die Noten tropfen von Stimme zu Stimme. Diesen Effekt nutzt Liebig auch zum Auftakt des Kirschblütenstücks und setzt dann die Terza Rima-Spirale in Bewegung, durchwegs animiert. Der Minim- Ton und Liebigs Konzept verschütteln die 66 Minuten miteinander zu einem einzigen Sulphur-Kaleidoskop. iTunes spielt schon die ganze Zeit ein Bisschen at random und ich merke es erst jetzt.
Rigo Dittmann, Bad Alchemy

 

[On Sulphur (pfMENTUM CD046), STEUART LIEBIG with its chamber music quartet MINIM presents three new composition.  The dreiviertelstündige 'Kaleidoscope' insists out of miniature being based 23 on Haikus. 'The Cherry Blossom Is Only Perfect When it' s Falling From The Tree' is a harmonious Palindrom out of 13 parts in a going through sentence and operates at the same time with Terzinen, the Terza Rima-Reimschema
a-b-a invented by Dante, b-c-b, c-d-c, d-e-d.  The short more or less requiem 'Necrological pi cable', for a choreography written, has its title of J. L.  Borges borrowed.  In Minim, one met again Andrew Pask at clarinet & bass clarinet, Sara Schoenbeck plays bassoon, Brad Dutz Marimba, Percussion & Drums and the Composer itself is at its, in part prepared to hear contrabass guitar.  Liebig makes emphasizes the 'Kaleidoscope' -miniature transparent and, corresponding to the Haikupoesie, freely of all superfluous, in that it the Vierstimmigkeit again and again thins out.  The sound specialties is bound through the bass pitches and contrabass pitches, that often woody Percussiontupfer, that rattling tubes of the bassoon that Schoenbeck may brighten rarely into the tenor situation.  Three & vierstimmige moments as well as XI and simultaneously quicke as well as XII, XIII or XVI cause promptly opulent and insolent.  Mimin completely, how in XIV, XVIII or XXIII, is almost already type skirt.  The total impression is that of an original Simplizität, an absurd Nyktophilie with a predeliction for that 17 (the 5-7-5 Moren of a Haiku) and the jerky humor of a Kobayashi Issa.  A sprungund geräuschhafte Pointillistik
determines also the character of the pietätischen miniature.  The death grinds its scythe that ticks clock, the notes drop of voice to voice.  Liebig uses this effect also to the prelude of the cherry blossom piece and sets animates then the Terza Rima spiral in motion, through way.  The Minim- tone and Liebigs draft verschütteln the 66 minutes together to a single-Sulphur kaleidoscope iTunes the entire time a little at random plays already and I notice it first now.]

 

Electric bassist Steuart Liebig (aka “Stig”) is a big fish in Southern California’s avant-garde scene, and Sulphur is the second release by his chamber quartet Minim. The first, Quicksilver (2004), featured a lineup of flute, violin, bass and percussion. But here we have Andrew Pask on clarinet and bass clarinet, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon and Brad Dutz on drums, percussion and marimba. Liebig doesn’t simply play bass, he plays “C, Eb, 12-string and prepared contrabassguitars.” The group is worth hearing for its sonic richness alone. Texturally, it’s not far afield from Wayne Horwitz’s Gravitas Quartet, in which Schoenbeck also plays.

Sulphur turns out to parallel Quicksilver closely in terms of structure. The first piece, “Kaleidoscope,” is a 45-minute work inspired by haiku, much like the earlier “Mosaic.” Spanning 23 relatively short tracks, it’s followed by a 17-minute piece called “The Cherry Blossom Is Only Perfect When It’s Falling From the Tree,” based on terza rima, a poetic form first used by Dante and Chaucer. The final cut, “Necrological Pieties,” the most abstract of the lot, is just over four minutes. In concept and execution, the album is captivating from start to finish.

Liebig’s writing has a dense, Schoenberg-meets-Hemphill quality, with a fluid boundary between notation and improv. The lines and harmonic colors call for a high order of virtuosity and ensemble cohesion, and that is what Liebig gets. During “Kaleidoscope” the group breaks into every variety of duo and trio; before it’s over, each player gets an unaccompanied feature as well. “The Cherry Blossom” is less fragmented, more of a sustained four-way dialogue, a welcome contrast. Dutz, who provides a stunning array of percussive timbres on the first piece, plays marimba all the way through the second, thickening the melodic and harmonic palette.
David R. Adler, Jazz Times

 

This project is composed of 25 tracks. Actually there are 3 main pieces, the first "Kaleidoscope" is made up of 23 miniatures. The > music ranges from playful, to artsy, to mysterious. It tracks for 44:44! Seems almost made for musicians, they that can understand the subtleties and interplay.
"The Cherry Blossom Is Only Perfect..." (17:16) is a movement of 13 > parts based on 'Terza Rima.' The album is hard to get into at times, > as the many cuts change mood and tone...yet the little sub-tracks are > meant to be aspects of the whole as in a play with the many parts.
Musically I enjoyed the sounds of the clarinet and its
interaction with the guitar, marimba, and bassoon. Without pianos, keys, or electronics it was nice to hear these uncommon instruments get a workout by these talented musicians.
A. Canales, The CRITICAL REVIEW SERVICE (fanofgold@yahoo.com)

 

The intellectual element is highly evident in every move characterizing Steuart Liebig’s music. “Sulphur” comprises three pieces that contain references or plain influences related to a series of compositional means and technical circumstances that have to do with the syllabic rules of haiku poetry (“Kaleidoscope”), Jorge Luis Borges (“Necrological Pieties”), palindromes and terza rima (“The Cherry Blossom Is Only perfect When It’s Falling From the Tree”). Liebig, a master of the contrabass guitar, which he plays in different tunings and combinations of strings, is flanked by three sensitive monsters who respond to the names of Andrew Pask (clarinets), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon) and Brad Dutz (percussion). The leader structured the pieces in order to respect precise mathematic recurrences - - be it the number of solos, the different kinds of grouping or the quantity of measures - - over which he tried to set his instrument, handled with preparations and “less bass-like techniques” than usual. In essence, we’re in front of an ultramodern chamber quartet that sounds immaculately complex, therefore extremely rewarding for listeners whose single-mindedness is very high and who own a solid background as far as dissonant counterpoint and thought-out improvisation are concerned; Anton Webern and Igor Stravinsky would have been appreciative of a good portion of these scores. Speaking of the single members, Pask and Schoenbeck’s reflective intuitions and resolute skepticism towards everything sounding stale allow their lines to assume an identity of their own, while Dutz is surely one of the finest percussionists around today, his playing mostly based on subtraction and breathing spaces in a great demonstration of “total control.” Liebig’s timbre is immediately recognizable (even more so for his writing style), nimble dissertations and obstinate knottiness confirming him as a bright mind in California’s new music scene. Those who esteem the label from Ventura already know what I’m talking about, and won’t be deluded.
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

 

Minim is a chamber ensemble led by bass guitarist Steuart Liebig that draws together some regulars from the pfMentum stable: the prolific percussionist/ composer Brad Dutz, clarinettist Andrew Pask (one half of the Choir Boys, a fine electroacoustic duo with label-owner Jeff Kaiser), and bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck, who has lately been gaining exposure through her work in Anthony Braxton’s 12+1tet. The album’s centerpiece is “Kaleidoscope,” a set of 23 brief compositions based on haiku (though I’m not quite clear if this means they are a response to the form in the abstract or to specific poems). The sequence begins with a scurrying explosion, but this proves untypical of what follows, which is more often structured around somber but curiously dainty unison lines (with Dutz often on marimba). Each piece explores its soundworld and its composed materials with measured calm and clarity, as if there was all the time in the world—by the time a track finishes (usually with a compressed restatement of the initial theme) it has reached its natural resting place rather than raced to the finish. The effect is a little cool, and the 17-minute “The Cherry Blossom Is Only Perfect When It’s Falling from the Tree” works better by taking similar materials and letting them twine together, the model this time being terza rima, the interlocking rhyme scheme of Dante’s Divine Comedy. A final track, “Necrological Pieties,” is altogether looser in feel: it’s a mysterious landscape of shrouded, half withheld gestures and subterranean thumps; Liebig’s bass guitar comes in at the end like a grandfather clock ticking away the hours deep in the bowels of an old house.
Nate Dorward, Cadence

 

An electric bassist composing contemporary music is not something common, so it comes as no surprise if Steuart Liebig’s music is constantly uncommon. This quartet outing delivers a hefty load of heady, complex, partly-impeovised music. The multi-part “Kaleidoscope” is a joyride through Liebig’s various sides, interests and influences.

François Couture, DÉLIRE ACTUEL

 

 

 

 

If you want to read my notes on this album, click here.