The Squid's Ear Magazine

BEAM SPLITTER + Lonning & Reinertsen: Beauties (Neither/Nor Records)

Aberrant, expressive and idiosyncratic improvisations from the merging of two unique duos--Audrey Chen on voice and Henrik Munkeby Norstebo on trombone; and Eivind Lonning on trumpet and Espen Reinertsen on tenor sax--all using electronics, recording in Norway together while in separate rooms linked by headphones to create these two beautifully strange improvisations.

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Audrey Chen-voice, electronics

Henrik Munkeby Norstebo-trombone, electronics

Eivind Lonning-trumpet, electronics

Espen Reinertsen-tenor saxophone, electronics

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Label: Neither/Nor Records
Catalog ID: n/n 023
Squidco Product Code: 34217

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Flerbruket in Hemnes, Norway, on March 22nd, and 23rd, 2021, by Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Two idiosyncratic duos form one ecstatic organism where four closely miked acoustic sound sources merge with external analog and digital electronics. This is the physical starting point for a vast multidimensional sound world. The quartet made their debut with a commissioned work for the "Asphalt festival" in Dusseldorf in 2018, and consists of four performers who continuously push the boundaries of their respective instruments.

Beauties was recorded over two days at "Flerbruket" in rural Hemnes, Norway, and is the quartet's first collaborative release. For mixing clarity, the four musicians were physically scattered around the old wooden house, linked by microphones and headsets. The two pieces that make up the album were recorded in real time without additional editing or processing, capturing the group living and breathing as one."-Neither/Nor

Carlo Costa: Beam Splitter often collaborates with other artists or bands. What interests you about collaborating with others generally? What sparked this particular collaboration with Eivind and Espen?

Henrik Munkeby Nørtebø: Eivind and Espen are like twins separated at birth, despite having wildly different personalities. They have worked as a tightly knit unit for almost two decades now, and are two of the most unique instrumentalists out there. They have developed ways of transcending the roles of their instruments, while still carrying a lot of music tradition, and utilize electronics as an extension of their expression. Their practice as the duo "Streifenjunko" is very specific, almost lab-like, and based on developing material over time, but as individuals they're still really open and flexible, and are often invited together into projects that are miles away from the specific duo material they produce. I think all these elements really resonate with the way Audrey and I live and work together, and the way we enjoy being challenged by people who operate on different ends of the spectrum. I played with the two of them for the first time in 2010, followed by occasional projects, and Audrey was a part of a large group with Eivind for some time. We hadn't played together in a small setting though, and the idea of a double duo/quartet had already existed for a while before finally coming into fruition through an invitation to make a commissioned work for "Asphalt festival" in Düsseldorf in 2018. We also really like hanging out together, and share an enthusiasm for eating and drinking good stuff, so that's also a central element!

CC: You all use electronics on this album, beautifully integrating them with your acoustic instruments and voice. How do you view your use of electronics? As an extension of your instruments, or as a separate entity to interact or contend with?

Audrey Chen: I can only answer on my own personal relationship with electronics, and in fact, it's just my unique relationship with the one/two ciat lonbarde synths, (one of his original "fourses" synths from 2006 or 7 and a more contemporary "mr. grassi" module, both of which i've crudely connected). This touch based set up remains separate from my voice but is connected through me. It's entirely chaotic and I barely control the sonic output except by way of volume and touch triggering. But since it's been an integrated part of my set up for nearly 16 years, I feel I have an understanding and sensibility with its feral electronic nature.

HMN: I also to a certain degree have a "found objects" approach to my use of electronics, where various items have slotted in with the trombone over time. Generally mine and Audrey's choice of electronics also reflect our musical personalities pretty well, where I personally prefer keeping my sound sources on tighter reins, and letting the chaos element come from the situation or people I play with, while Audrey also in her solo work is actively being surprised by her chaos based synth. Neither of us use electronics to alter the sound of our instruments though (beyond microphone technique), which is a misconception regularly found in reviews about our work, haha.

My impression of Espen and Eivind is that they're definitely changing their tech setup more actively, and probably also practicing more together outside of concerts than Audrey and I do. And for this particular record, both of them are mixing dry signal with occasional electronics that affects their trumpet/sax output, as well as using "external" electronics. And Espen's scattered use of heavy reverb amazingly creates an illusion of all four of us being transported to that resonant space for a second. Beyond this though, I think all four of us are primarily driven by the manual acoustic instrumentation.

CC: Beam Splitter has been very active in the past few years, playing many shows all over the world. How has your music and process evolved over time?

HMN: We have definitely gotten louder over these past eight years, and our duo practice has deepened a lot through repetition and playing together in so many different situations and spaces. I personally have pushed my microphone technique to closer match Audrey's very "hot on the mic" approach, and there's always a healthy push and pull going on due to our contrasting personalities. And beyond our duo development, which I would say is a patient process, we do get a lot of impulse injections from all our collaborations, and also from the wide range of projects we are developing and taking part in individually.

AC: I'd say that this duo is definitely, as with my other projects, a labor of love but on another level because Henrik and I are life partners as well as a band. We started playing together approx 8 years ago and we've both changed a lot as people since then, which has richly redefined both of our individual practices as well as the duo interaction. As Henrik mentioned, the hyper close on and off mic approach has widened our dynamic output and stretched the language further, from "everything to nothing and everywhere in between". And as we've been living and working together, I'd say that even though we maintain our very different personalities and backgrounds, our predictive instincts have been honed which has given the non verbal sonic dialog increasing depth over time.

CC: What is your relationship with recording? Is it a way to capture an instant of your ongoing work, or something else? What does it mean to record unedited, unprocessed improvisations such as these ones?

AC: I'm not a very recording centric person although I appreciate the process. Usually my records (or ones I'm involved with) manifest via an external source, either a bandmate or a label contacting me. My performances are best experienced in a live context and that's how I also most fully feel connected, moment by moment, year by year, to my ongoing practice. Recording in every aspect is a different process than this kind of connection. It is a kind of way to capture some essence of the language and spirit of the performance and I view my recording output more like a historical account which documents a moment in my life and a place where I am. Although this record with the quartet is long form and unedited (as was the spirit of the playing, interactions uninterrupted) I often cut recorded material into shorter bite sized vignettes more easily digested by the ear without the live component. So, instead of a longer narrative, I make the book into poems. But sometimes when the music is owned by many, in this case 4 persons, you need the entire story beginning to end, to feel the breadth and complexity of all the voices.

HMN: I have released records that are full length unedited concert performances (the trio with Nina de Heney and Raymond Strid is even two full concert sets), and used to be more dogmatic about avoiding overlapping or altering recorded material. In many ways I still feel the entire story is needed, like Audrey mentioned. But I guess I also have become more realistic about people's listening habits, combined with departing from fully acoustic music, which somehow makes the editing step seem less drastic. Earlier in my development the music I played changed much quicker, and I found that making records was the only way of producing something fixed from a very fleeting process. It was really important to sit down and choose a cross section of this process, and decide that "this is my music right now". Nowadays I really enjoy moving little sound files around for hours, and I view records as their own medium more than as documentation. But the material that ends up on my releases is always developed through improvisation and repetition, so it's just capturing the process from a different angle.

When it comes to our work with BEAM SPLITTER, which overlaps a lot with both our solo projects, the live performance will always be the ultimate format. The music is very physical, with every movement connected to the sound produced. And it contains both dynamic and frequency ranges that can't be fully captured on a record. Sending a new release out into the world, you just have hope for the best! It won't come across as intended when played through laptop speakers or on a low volume, but can give a good approximation when listened to with care. Each record, and the material that is up for selection for a record, dictates the process and format needed. And the quartet in this case might sound more processed than it actually is, so I think it might have felt too fragmented if we had cut it up into shorter pieces or added post production beyond the regular mixing/mastering procedure. We are really happy to release this disc with two of our favourite collaborators, and it definitely gives access to a moment that wouldn't be reachable otherwise.

Artist Biographies

"Audrey Chen is a 2nd generation Chinese/Taiwanese-American musician who was born into a family of material scientists, doctors and engineers, outside of Chicago in 1976. Parting ways with the family convention, she turned to the cello at age 8 and voice at 11. After years of classical and conservatory training in both instruments, with a resulting specialization in early and new music, she parted ways again in 2003 to begin new negotiations with sound in order to discover a more individually honest aesthetic.

Since then, using the cello, voice and occasional analog electronics, Chen's work delves deeply into her own version of narrative and non-linear storytelling. A large component of her music is improvised and her approach to this is extremely personal and visceral. Her playing explores the combination and layering of the homemade analog synthesizer, preparations and traditional and extended techniques in both the voice and cello. She works to join these elements into a singular ecstatic personal language.

**Over the past decade plus, her predominant focus has been her solo work with the cello, voice and electronics, but she has more recently begun to shift back towards the exploration of the voice as a primary instrument.

"Audrey Chen has created an uncompromising and idiosyncratic music, tightly disciplined yet acoustically wild and heavy with implication. Her ultra-verbal vocalising, often reminiscent of the visceral and emotionally charged sound poetry of François Dufréne or Henri Chopin, exposes physiological aspects of utterance that are concealed within standardised articulation and day to day speech. Fleshy, breath-driven and flecked with spittle, Chen's voice emanates not just from her mouth but from an ensemble of upper body surfaces, channels, passages, and cavities." - Julien Cowley THE WIRE

Recent projects, aside from performing solo, include her long running voices duo with Phil Minton, duos HISS & VISCERA with modular synth player Richard Scott, BEAM SPLITTER with Norwegian trombonist Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø, and the "romantic noise duo" AFTERBURNER with Doron Sadja (electronics/light projection). Past projects include work with German conceptual artist John Bock, a duo with NYC abstract turntablist Maria Chavez, and a quartet with Nate Wooley, C. Spencer Yeh, and Todd Carter. Her new projects include a double duo/quartet with BEAM SPLITTER and STREIFENJUNKO's, Eivind Lønning and Espen Reinersten and MOPCUT with Lukas König and Julien Desprez.

Among her more recent album releases include, "By the Stream" with Phil Minton - Subrosa (Brussels), "Hiss & Viscera" with Richard Scott - Sound Anatomy (Berlin), "Rough Tongue", BEAM SPLITTER'S debut LP - Corvo Records (Berlin) and her long awaited new solo album "Runt Vigor" - Karl Records (Berlin).

Chen has performed across Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Canada and the USA.

Some festival appearances include: Festival Beyond Innocence (Osaka, JP), Maerzmusik (Berlin, DE), Klangspuren Festival (Schwaz, AT), NUMA Circuit (Tenerife, ES), Sound of Stockholm (Stockholm, SE), Kongsberg Jazz Festival (Kongsberg, NO), Jazz Saalfelden (Saalfelden, AT), Plateaux Festival (Torun, PL), Color Out of Space (Brighton, UK), Wels Music Unlimited (Wels, AT), 2PI Festival (Hangzhou, CN), Jazz a Luz (Luz-Saint-Saveur, FR), Festival Muzzix (Lille, FR), La Voix est Libre (Toulouse/Paris, FR), Total Meeting (Tours, FR), NowNow Festival (Sydney, AU), Uncool Festival (Poschiavo, CH), the Next Festival (Bratislava, SK), Colour Out of Space (Brighton, UK), Donau Festival (Krems, AT), Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville/FIMAV (CA), Festival Ecuatoriano de Música Contemporánea (Quito,Ecuador) and Wien Modern (Vienna, AT).

And venues such as: Covent Garden (London, UK), Radialsystem (Berlin, DE), Zacheta National Gallery (Warsaw, PL), Museé du quai Branly (Paris, FR), Radio France (Paris, FR), Theatre Bouffes du Nord (Paris, FR), Auditorio de Tenerife (Tenerife, ES), Teatro Colon (Buenos Aires, AR), Bimhuis, (Amsterdam, NL), Rote Fabrik (Zurich, CH), Teatro Fondamenta Nuove (Venice, IT), DOM (Moscow, RU), Anton Kern Gallery (NYC, US), Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna, AT) and Robert Wilson's Watermill Center (Water Mill, NY, US).

In 2011, in addition to her performances, she was awarded the prestigious Mary Sawyers Baker Prize, an award that was established to support individual artists living, and working in Maryland. Since 2011, she relocated to Berlin, Germany from Baltimore, MD USA and continues to maintain an active international touring schedule.

David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet has described her work as "fascinating and gripping" and "possessing something extremely vital and vivid...." "

-Audrey Chen Website (

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"Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø (born 29 July 1986 in Trondheim, Norway) is a Norwegian trombonist.

Nørstebø who was born and raised in Trondheim, is a trombonist mainly active on the free impro scenes of jazz, contemporary and improvised music. Since 2005 he has worked primarily with free-improvised music, and organizes and plays in bands like Nørstebø/Myhr/Järmyr, Teknokrat, As deafness increases, Ensemble Coordonnateur and PerdieusNørstebøWakolbinger. Nørstebø also plays solo concerts. The album SOLO was released on the Portuguese label "Creative Sources" in summer 2011. In addition, players Nørstebø with the Oslo-based new music ensemble "Axiom" and "Önczkekvist improvising orchestra" with members from Norway, Austria and Czech Republic. He collaborates with musicians like Nina de Heney, Daniel Lercher, Raymond Strid, Naoko Sakata, Tomas Jäderlund, Moritz Zopf, Bernd Klug, Danielle Dahl, Rosi Rehformen, Rasmus Borg. Nørstebø completed a bachelor of music performance (improvisation/jazz) at Högskolan för scen och musik in Gothenburg (2011)."

-Wikipedia (

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"Eivind Lønning, born 1983, living in Oslo, is one of the most prominent and active young musicians on the Norwegian creative music scene, playing in bands like Streifenjunko, Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, Motif, Koboku Senju, and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Eivind grew up playing classical trumpet, his education contains a jazz bachelor from the Trondheim Conservatory and a master degree in improvised music from the Academy of Music in Oslo. He is experienced in both jazz and classical music, and has developed a very personal sound with unusual melodic qualities.

In the duo Streifenjunko with sax player Espen Reinertsen, Eivind Lønning has worked with modern improvisation and extended playing techniques for the trumpet. They have worked closely together for many years to present a truly unique repertoire, a mix between composed structures and improvisations, and have collaborated with Keith Rowe, Tetuzi Akiyama, Toshimaru Nakamura, Jim Denley, Christian Wallumrød, Sidsel Endresen and video artist Kjell Bjørgeengen. During the last few years, Streifenjunko have played more than 100 concerts all over the world, including Japan, USA, South-Africa, Australia and most of Europe. Festival performances includes Fri Resonans and Kongsberg Jazzfestival in Norway, On the Edge of Wrong Festival in South Africa, Moers Festival in Germany, Sonic Acts in Amsterdam, Cable Festival in Nantes, and the NOWnow Festival in Sydney.

Streifenjunko released their debut cd "No Longer Burning" in 2009 on the record label Sofa. In 2010 the duo recieved the prestigious Young Lindeman Award. In 2012 they released their second album, "Sval Torv", on Sofa. In 2011 Eivind also started playing solo performances, he has done tours in Scandinavia and performed at the opening concert of the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival in 2011. In 2008 Eivind replaced Arve Henriksen in the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, and in 2009 he featured on the ECM release "Fabula Suite Lugano" which received remarkable critical acclaims, and was nominated for "The Nordic Council Music Prize 2010". As part of Trondheim Jazz Orchestra he has performed with Joshua Redman, Dave Holland and Chick Corea, and performed comissions by Eirik Hegdal, Per Zanussi, Kim Myhr, Ståle Storløkken, Motorpsycho and Erlend Skomsvoll."

-Eivind Lonning Website (

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"Espen Reinertsen (born 1979) based in Oslo, is educated at NTNU's Jazzconservatory in Trondhem and Norwegian Music Academy in Oslo. He plays with trumpetplayer Eivind Lønning in the duo Streifenjunko, and is also currently a member of Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, and Koboku Senju together with Eivind Lønning and tubaist Martin Taxt, with the japanese improvisers Tetuzi Akiyama and Toshimaru Nakamura. Reinertsen has at several occasions collaborated with musicians as Sidsel Endresen, Michel Doneda, Keith Rowe and videoartist Kjell Bjørgengen."

-SusannaSonata (

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Track Listing:

1. Vessel 19:39

2. Full Moon 18:37

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Electro-Acoustic Improv
Free Improvisation
Duo Recordings
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
Unusual Vocal Forms
Electronic Forms
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
New in Experimental & Electronic Music

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