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Ingrid Schmoliner
Elena Kakaliagou

NABELÓSE

  • Ingrid Schmoliner — prepared piano, voice
  • Elena Kakaliagou — french horn, vocals

“Whispering, Drones, Whiches and a Funeral March…”

Corvo Records’ new LP + download release NABELÓSE shows Austrian prepared piano virtuoso and yodeler INGRID SCHMOLINER and the french horn player ELENA KAKALIAGOU from Greece, putting their hands and voices on traditional folk music from both countries.

Ingrid Schmoliner moves between the genres of new music, improvised music, free jazz, and folk music. Teaming up with the member of Zeitkratzer, RANK Ensemble, PARA, and Zinc & Copper Elena Kakaliagou, they form a Duo that creates dark interpretations of ancient songs and tales from mountains and the sea.

The LP comes with download code and in lavish gatefold cover!

Listen

Format

LP, 140g Vinyl + digital download
43:32 min
300 hand numbered copies
core 012

Credits

  • Recorded at Alte Gerberei, St.Johann in Tirol, Austria by Charles Wienand in June 2016
  • Mixed and mastered by Alexander Yannilos
  • Sleeve artwork by Wendelin Büchler
  • Kindly supported by BKA Österreich
  • Elena would like to dedicate this album to her father.
  • Ingrid dedicates this music to deep female friendships, the women from the mountains, to Nieves, Marlene, Marlies, Elena and to her mother.
  • Special thanks to Karin, Cornelia and Hans, Charles, Alex and Wendelin.

Some praise…

“I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything quite like this… It’s a spellbinding, cathartic combination of beauty and discomfort”
— Decoder (USA)

Nabelóse ist ein magisches, berührendes Album.”
— Skug (AT)

“A surprising album.”
— Vital Weekly (NL)

“So haben wir es in Wahrheit mit einem brillanten, die Tiefe, die Stille und die Emotion nicht scheuenden Bluesalbum zu tun, das auch international seinesgleichen sucht.”
— freistil (AT)

“Kakaliagou, als bloße Zeitkratzer-Bläserin offenbar unterschätzt, geht der Diaspora-Blues von den Lippen wie bitterer Honig.”
— Bay Alchemy (DE)

“Motivi folk legati sia alla Grecia che all’area Alpina, facendo perno sulla capacità di entrambe nello sfruttare con modalità decisamente fuori dall’ordinario i propri strumenti.”
— Darkroom Magazine (IT)

„I would call it delicate, but it‘s the delicacy of a very still lake at night, with ripples only barely audible along the shore, and there‘s no light so you can‘t completely differentiate the horizon and the water.
And there‘s an ancient myth monster that sleeps in the lake.”
— Andrew Choate (USA)

Reviews

Nabelóse, released by Berlin-based sound art label Corvo Records, is a collaboration between Austrian prepared piano virtuoso/yodeler Ingrid Schmoliner and Greek French horn player Elena Kakaliagou, breathing new life into traditional folk songs from both artists’ native countries. If this description piques your curiosity (as it did mine), you are hereby encouraged to get your hands on the LP sooner than later because at 300 hand-numbered copies, it seems destined for scarcity.

The opening track, “To Be Given Up / Γιάννη μου το μαντήλι σου,” begins with a slow, plaintive melody from Kakaliagou’s French horn while a bowed string from Schmoliner’s prepared piano sings out an open A. The drone intensifies gradually and the horn weaves around it: up a minor second, and then settling in unison, the tension-and-release evoking alternating feelings of dread and acceptance.

Around seven minutes in, we finally hear a voice: full-bodied yet light, like a radiant bloom springing forth from the sound world defined by the two instrumental elements. Sung in Greek and based on a traditional folk song from Epirus (an area along the border between Greece and Albania),”To Be Given Up” is about ‘xenitia‘ — the emotional state of one in exile; of being far from home and not being able to come back.

 

The second track, “Frau im Berg,” is an Austrian funeral march full of pagan images of cleansing, rebirth, and the dissolution of time and space. Here, Schmoliner’s yodeling is foregrounded. Most familiar to American audiences, perhaps, from the sing-song yodeling introduced to country music by German, Swiss, and Austrian immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries, traditional yodeling is an extended vocal technique characterized by an oscillation between head and chest voice which originated in the mountains of Europe and Central Asia where the sound could play off a natural echo. In “Frau im Berg,” Schmoliner’s yodeling is rapid-fire and commanding, reminding me a bit of the nasally flutters of Devendra Banhart’s voice on songs like “See Saw,” or the staccato cries of Yoko Ono’s avant vocal masterpiece “Fly.”

Side B begins with “Goldgefüllter Lippenrand,” a Steve Reich-esque piano composition accompanied by a soft, percussive popping and French horn swells that build in intensity, eventually giving way to the kind of sputtering, farty sounds that make junior high band directors question their life choices. It’s a playful track that blends tightly composed structures with expressive improvisation, revealing a deeper range of possibilities for this instrumentation.

“Schlangenfrau” delves even further into this expanded range. The insistent piano is here again, this time tonally altered, with the percussive pops sweeping through like a woodpecker versed in spirit rapping. The voice and horn are both muffled and strange, wrapping around the spine of the prepared piano liked the gauzy cries of ghosts (some of whom, once again, are farting). This is the most experimental track on the album, and it sets the stage for “Nabelóse / Βάρκα μου μπογιατισμένη,” the final, and title track. A traditional song from the coastal shores of Greece, the lyrics reveal fragmented, dreamlike images of water, the Madonna, and a boat that has been painted, but has not yet been out to sea. Dramatic and spare, this is Schmoliner and Kakaliagou at their most emotionally resonant. About halfway through the song, the horn begins to cry like a whimpering dog, and soon a bowed piano string starts crying alongside it. I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything quite like this — my favorite sentence to type in an album review. It’s a spellbinding, cathartic combination of beauty and discomfort, a stunning climax for a record that seems to be about investigating textures as much as it is about loneliness, longing, and the inevitable drift of history.
— Emily Pothast, Decoder Magazine

 

Nei suoi sette anni di attività, la berlinese Corvo Records ha dato ampia dimostrazione del proprio coraggio nel proporre artisti e suoni propensi all’avanguardismo ed alla sperimentazione, e quindi non per tutti. Non fa eccezione questa nuova uscita, che vede collaborare l’austriaca Ingrid Schmoliner (voce, prepared piano) e la greco/austriaca Elena Kakaliagou (voce, corno francese), entrambe già presenti in numerosi altri progetti collaborativi e con all’attivo diversi riconoscimenti anche da parte delle massime istituzioni locali. L’intento delle due artiste, a seguito del tempo speso assieme in Tirolo, è stato quello di unire le proprie abilità per dar vita ad un ciclo di canzoni basate su storie e motivi folk legati sia alla Grecia che all’area Alpina, facendo perno sulla capacità di entrambe nello sfruttare con modalità decisamente fuori dall’ordinario i propri strumenti. Realizzato soltanto in vinile con lussuosa confezione apribile e codice per il download (per soli 300 esemplari numerati a mano), l’album si apre con “To Be Given Up”: il corno francese, usato in lungo e in largo con fare simil-dronico, si muove come una lieve brezza su cui mormorano suoni squisitamente mediterranei, col cantato della Kakaliagou ad incarnare come si conviene la tradizione ellenica. Ancor più sottile “Frau Im Berg”, dove la voce della Schmoliner spinge verso toni sperimentali, mentre sullo sfondo appaiono timide abrasioni ed il piano emana note sparse, diventando per contro protagonista in “Goldgefullter Lippenrand” col suo motivo ossessivo, su uno sfondo delineato dal corno in cui campeggiano bordature noisy. Lo scampanio incessante di “Schlangenfrau” si colora di voci stralunate e rumori di fondo, mentre con la conclusiva title-track torna il cantato tradizionale della brava Elena, sorretto da basi di corno ancor più minimali. Non certo un lavoro di facile fruizione, ma senz’altro lodevole nel suo voler unire tradizione ed avanguardismo attraverso la comunione d’intenti di due artiste di indubbio spessore.
— Roberto Filippozzi, Darkroom Magazine

 

What Kristina Fuchs and her companions did with ‘Linden’, taking old Dutch folk tunes as a starting point for improvisation, so do Schmoliner and Kakaliagou with their project ‘Nabelöse’. Intheir case they use old Greek and Austrian folk tunes and tales. This duo started their collaboration in February 2016 during a shared artist in residence stay in St.Johann, Austria. This stay turned out very fruitful and already in June 2016 they recorded material in St. Johann that is now released by the Berlin-based label Corvo. Schmoliner and Kakaliagou know each already for many years. Both are part of the trio PARA. Both are active in a variety of projects on improvised and contemporary music. The opening track ‘To be given up‘ opens with a very long, slowed down intro before Kakaliagou starts to sing a Greek ‘bluesy’ song.

A very fine and delicate interaction between Kakaliagou on French horn and Schmoliner on prepared piano. Also the title track ‘Nabelöse’ is based on a Greek song and is of a similar beauty. Both ‘Goldgefühlter Lippenrand’ and ‘Schlangenfrau’, have repetitive patterns played by piano and prepared piano at the core.
Supplemented by sparse improvisations on French horn and voice, that remains at some distance. With their extended techniques they create very soulful music, showing that the sound spectrums of French horn and (prepared) piano, make a beautiful combination. Although the music unfolds on an abstract level, melody and song-format are continuously suggested in most of the
improvisations. A surprising album.
— DM, Vital Weekly

 

Den ursprünglichen Impuls für diese letzten Endes prächtige Platte gab die Musik Kultur St. Johann/T mit der Einladung von Ingrid Schmoliner & Elena Kakaliagou als Artists in Residence des Festivals artacts ’16. In dreiwöchiger Arbeit vor Ort beschäftigten sich die beiden Musikerinnen mit der Erstellung eines Liederzyklus, der auf Traditionals der beiden Herkunftsländer, Kärnten & Griechenland, Bezug nehmen sollte. Live wurde dieses Vorhaben bereits blendend umgesetzt, ein Grund mehr, nochmals nach Tirol zu fahren, um das erarbeitete Liedgut im Studio einzuspielen bzw. von Sir Charles Wienand plattentauglich aufnehmen zu lassen.

Basierend auf Folksongs regional differenter, charakterlich verwandter, melancholischer Ausprägung, hat die Hornistin und Vokalistin/Sängerin Kakaliagou zwei Kompositionen beigesteuert, To be given up sowie das Titelstück Nabelóse, auf das Konto der Pianistin und Vokalistin/Jodlerin Schmoliner gehen ihrerseits die drei Stücke Frau im Berg, Goldgefüllter Lippenrand und Schlangenfrau. Es ist hier nicht genügend Platz für die Darstellung der textlichen Liedinhalte. Soviel Platz muss aber sein, um auf die heftige Intensität, die Formschönheit und den Geniestreich beider Protagonistinnen im emanzipatorischen, unter die Haut gehenden Umgang mit Volksmusiken hinzuweisen. So haben wir es in Wahrheit mit einem brillanten, die Tiefe, die Stille und die Emotion nicht scheuenden Bluesalbum zu tun, das auch international seinesgleichen sucht.

Ein so privates wie starkes, so politisches wie fragiles Dokument, das mit enormer Sogwirkung die Echos der Vergangenheit aufspürt, um sie in der Gegenwart zukunftstauglich, also berührend zu interpretieren.
— felix, freistil

 

Fünf Lieder nur, aber sie nehmen insgeheim gefangen, entführen in eine mythologische (Sagen-)Welt, die in der Vergangenheit ankert und doch so gegenwärtig klingt. Damit das Eintauchen in diesen jen- und diesseitigen Kosmos gelingt, eröffnet »To Be Given Up« gleich 13:28 Minuten lang. Berückend schön klingt es aus dem Inneren von Ingrid Schmoliners Klavier und Elena Kakaliagous lang angehaltene Waldhorntöne summen fort wie in Ewigkeit. Wenn dann noch ihre Stimme anhebt, ist dieses griechische Volkslied gänzlich in einer ureigenen Klanggestalt angekommen. Im anschließenden »Frau im Berg« wird die Stimme konkreter, statt Entrücktheit ist ein vehementes Gurren und eine Art Waldhorn-Loop zu vernehmen. »Frau im Wagen, spann deinen Wagen. Mit Ei, Brot und Schlamm«. Erst in der zweiten Hälfte setzen wohlgesetzte Tastenklänge am präparierten Piano ein. Diese läuten zum Ende hin verfremdet scheinbar wie Glocken. Ein Totengesang aus alpinen Zonen.

Die B-Seite wartet mit perlenden Pianosaiten-Glissandi auf. »Goldgefüllter Lippenrand« setzt einem Gewässer, das vielleicht Mühlen in Betrieb setzt, ein tönendes Denkmal. Im darauffolgenden »Schlangenfrau« wird scheinbar warmer Dampf, der aus einem Urschlund steigt, symbolisiert, mit kraftvollem, atonal klingendem Tastenanschlag. Den wundersamen, gleichzeitig beunruhigenden Abschluss bildet »Nabelóse«. Im Meisterwerk, das auf einem griechischen Volkslied basiert, spricht die Protagonistin zu einem bemalten Boot, zu einer fremden Gestalt und spendet wehklagend einem verlassenen Waisenkind Trost. Die Vokalisen klingen unheimlich, haben aber wie die verzagten und bedrohlichen Waldhorn- und präparierten Pianosounds eine innere Schönheit. Es ist eine Erzählung über das Meer, über das Verlassen des Zuhauses, das Empfinden von Fremdsein und Sehnsucht. Ein melancholischer Ausklang, der noch am ehesten in Erinnerung ruft, dass hier zwei ausgewiesene Improvisationsmusikerinnen erhabene Klänge für die Ewigkeit meißelten.

Die Aufnahmen für dieses Album fanden übrigens in der Alten Gerberei St. Johann in Tirol, Hort des Artact-Festivals, statt. Betörender wurden alte Traditionals und Sagen aus dem Alpenland und vom Mittelmeer kaum jemals vertont. Die Platte, nur in 300 Stück Auflage erschienen, verlangt sofort danach, wieder auf die A-Seite umgedreht zu werden. Der Widerhall von Elena Kakaliagous French Horn und die sich damit verzahnenden, kaum erkennbar präparierten Pianostringtöne machen sicher: »Nabelóse« ist ein magisches, berührendes Album.
— Alfred Pranzl, Skug — Journal für Musik

 

Die österreichische Metapianistin und die griechische Waldhornistin stimmen unerwartet dunkle und althergebracht klingende Lieder an. Ja, nicht nur Töne, Lieder, das bekannte, schon von Chalkias Lakis und Eleftheria Arvanitaki angestimmte ‘Giánni mou to mantíli sou’ aus Epirus, von Patmos und den Kykladen ‘Varka mou bogiatismeni’, das Giorgos Batis schon 1935 aufgenommen und Martha Frintzila, a capella, unvergesslich gemacht hat. Giánni lebt in Xenitia, in der Fremde, und fünf Flüsse bringen den fremden Schmutz nicht aus seinem Taschentuch. Auch das Herz derer ist schwarz, deren Boot nicht schwimmt, mit Hilfe der Madonna soll denen die Hose zerreißen, die Waisen im Stich lassen. Wenn Schmoliner als ‘Frau im Berg’ sich vor den Karren span-n-n-n-nt, belädt sie ihn mit Eiern, Brot und Schlamm. Das Horn tutet dazu trist und monoton, aber auch feierlich und urig, Saiten sirren wie elektrorasiert. Kakaliagou, als bloße Zeitkratzer-Bläserin offenbar unterschätzt, geht der Diaspora-Blues von den Lippen wie bitterer Honig. Schmoliner singt gewagter, ihre Frau zittert vor Hunger und Frost, das Horn ein einziges Fauchen und Brummen, das Piano windschief verstimmt. ‘Goldgefüllter Lippenrand’ kreist als pingendes Windrädchen, das Horn küsst dazu mit Goldmund. Die ‘Schlangenfrau’ tanzt zu Röhrenglockendingdong, Kakaliagou zischt, blubbert und zungenredet mykenisch. ‘Varka mou bogiatismeni’ aber betet sie zag zu ominös dröhnendem Piano und beklemmtem, wie eine Robbe heulendem Horn.
Die Beklemmung überträgt sich durch und durch. Trister kann ein Marienlied kaum klingen.
— Bad Alchemy 94 rbd

 

Squeye: Where the Squint Retakes the Eye

I’m surprised there’s not a specific word that exists to describe the phenomena of something small making a sound bigger than itself, or the phenomena’s counterpart: something gigantic making a sound so small that the sound portends of fathomless distances between what is seen versus what is understood.
On this new duo recording by Ingrid Schmoliner and Elena Kakaliagou, folk songs abound and blur, becoming improvised music. Improvised music becomes hymnal. Small sounds scare big ones; huge sounds are defined by squeaks at the edge.

Rattles and spirals, pops and echoes, breaths and strikes: the backbone of this music. This music is composed of sounds that resonate bone deep, played with the level of sophisticated virtuosity that Schmoliner and Kakaliagou possess, enacting an entirely otherworldly evocation of the inner landscape.

I would call it delicate, but it’s the delicacy of a very still lake at night, with ripples only barely audible along the shore, and there’s no light so you can’t completely differentiate the horizon and the water. And there’s an ancient myth monster that sleeps in the lake. Still, I would call it delicate. Ferocity is there, under the lake, inherent in the tones and interactions between these musicians. This is ferocity made fang-explicit, at several crucial moments on the album.

Schmoliner’s rhythmic sequencing of piano preparations––blunted axe-handles, ever-ringing overtones, perky cinnamon swizzles––leaves no room for uncommitted ideas. She’s a sword swallower who savors the taste of complete commitment.
Kakaliagou, equally, has developed a clarity of melancholy for the French horn to revel in. Her sound is not a brash championship drillbit but a long pour of heavy liquid and breath. If something gets scratched in the process, she has the teeth to soothe.

Both women use their voices on this recording––from folk yodels that become chamber harmonics, to physical groans that become improvised touchstones––and boy do we need these voices at this time.

The sounds are bigger than their being, and the being is so big it can only make a small sound.
— Andrew Choate, October 2016

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