David Rothenberg, Korhan Erel - Berlin Bülbül (CD Gruenrekorder)

Whilst listening to David Rothenberg and Korhan Erel’s ‘Berlin Bülbül’, roughly translated as ‘Berlin Nightingale’, its hard not to smile. This comes from the intricate interplay of the playing. Rothenberg’s runs are graceful but belie the complexity that lies beneath. Erel’s electronics fill some of the gaps left by the sonorous clarinet. Instead of trying to fill all the space with dense sound, here they let each other have room to breath and work. The results are striking, whilst being enjoyable. Then there is the sound of birds, peppering each track. As they cheap, and flutter about, it gives the sounds a sense of rhythm they would not have had. And it is this rhythm that is fundamental to the album’s charm.  

Opening track ‘The Night the War Ends’ is a nine-minute monster. After a call and response between the birds and clarinet, the album begins in earnest. Rothenberg’s playing is underpinned by Erel’s subtle electronics. Instead of coming in all guns blazing, he wraps Rothenberg in a swaddle of synths. At first you do not notice what he is doing, as your attention is drawn to the clarinet and birds, but he is there. However, when you do start to notice his work you cannot unnotice it. ‘Omnibus’ is the wonkiest of the tracks on ‘Berlin Bülbül’. Here Erel steps from out of the shadows and let us rip in places and glitches out. The juxtaposition of deep, warming clarinet tone and the stark static electronic sounds works wonderfully. In fact, it works slightly too well, as you are left wanting a bit more throughout.

Ultimately ‘Berlin Bülbül’ is a comforting album. The music is soothing, while the samples of birdsongs grounds everything in the real world. We have all been distracted out of our daily lives by the sound of birds. Sometimes for the better, others for the worse. The album is reminiscent of Evan Parker’s 2004 classic ‘Evan Parker with Birds’. Like ‘Berlin Bülbül’ his playing was backed by birdsong, but Rothenberg and Erel have a slight edge, as what Erel does with Rothenberg’s clarinet. He takes the wafting melodies and grounds them in real life. While an album of Rothernberg honking and hooting is great, the inclusion of Erel’s bird sounds soundscapes really lifts these solos. Here they rise and fall gracefully, while gentle maelstroms buffett around them.

This is an album that you can truly get lost in. It is an album that with each listen revels more and more of its secrets. But most importantly it is an album that is incredibly fun that manages to take you out of the mundanity of life with every listen. NR

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