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Peter Evans and Nate Wooley - High Society

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Artist: Peter Evans and Nate Wooley

Album: High Society

Label: Carrier

Review date: Aug. 12, 2011

Individually and as a duo, trumpeters Peter Evans and Nate Wooley have established themselves as eclectic, cutting-edge players worthy of close attention. The combination of an appetite for experimentation, a well-developed sense of tradition and great chops has helped each of them carve out his own niche. Nothing in their individual or paired histories, however, hinted that they might produce an album like High Society.

Packaged in a low-key sleeve, which gives no indication of the album title or the number of tracks, High Society is a milestone release from the duo. In addition to a disquieting photograph of twisted wolf corpses, the sleeve does contain the all-important credit “Peter Evans, Nate Wooley: amplified trumpets." The story behind the credit is that they used guitar amplifiers to boost the volume of their horns, but otherwise there is no evidence of any form of manipulation, using other electronics or software.

The amplification magnifies the sounds to levels where un-hornlike things happen to them, so that the smallest of gestures is picked up and blown up out of all proportion – with interesting and unpredictable results. For example, on the opening track, “LXIX," the sound of a trumpet’s valves being pressed, without blowing, manages to sound like rhythmic tabla accompaniment.

The effect of the amplification is that Evans and Wooley play differently than how they normally would, and develop a new palette of sounds, including feedback, sustained drones, electronic twittering and chirping, crackly noise, crashing screeches, rhythmic thrumming and pulsing. Overall, the soundscape here is more akin to guitar noise than to trumpet. It is tempting to describe many of the sounds by analogy – roaring beasts, gunshots, birdsong – but as a listening experience, it’s more rewarding to wallow in them than to construct imagined scenarios.

The two players largely play separately, opting for contrasting sounds, although it’s not possible to tell which player is doing what. When Evans and Wooley occupy the same territory, as on “I," they can build up an awesome barrage of sound, not to mention melody. They make good use of contrasts and dynamics, the resulting peaks and troughs keeping the whole album vital and fresh.

High Society repays repeated listening, revealing fresh nuances every time. It may not be to the taste of all followers of Evans and Wooley but – ask Dylan – it can be hard to please everyone when you go electric.

By John Eyles

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