Speak Easy - @ Konfrontationen

(confront collectors series ccs 99)

Ute Wassermann - voice, birdcall whistles
Phil Minton - voice
Thomas Lehn - analogue synthesizer
Martin Blume - drums, percussion

Recorded July 22, 2016 by Hans Holler at festival KONFRONTATIONEN, Nickelsdorf/Austria.
Mixed by Thomas Lehn.

"An absolute dedication to craft requires an equal dedication to appreciation on the part of the audience. Two of Europe's most body-centric improvising vocalists converse with a bed of drums and analog synth for the ultimate showdown of humanness. "-The Attic, Preview: Konfrontationen 37

"Die Besucher*innen der Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf waren an diesem
freitagabend tatsächlich Speechless – im besten sinne. textbotschaften bleiben aus, natürlich. stattdessen gibt es sehr viel Geräusche zwischen flüstern und schreien – letztere mitunter unbarmherzig vom synthesizer-
Gewitter thomas Lehns ins unendliche verstärkt. oft bewegt sich die Lautstärke aber unterhalb der schmerzgrenze. Wassermann und Minton spielen sich derweil die vokale und Konsonanten – und alles, was sich außerhalb dessen bewegt – zu, während Blume am schlagwerk dafür sorgt, dass es nicht ausufert. Mitunter fragt man sich, kommt das Zwitschern von der Bühne oder aus den benachbarten Bäumen? Ambient, einmal  anders. satte dreieinhalb Jahre ist die Aufnahme schon alt. Wer damals dabei war, konnte auch sehen, wie Dialog ohne sprache im
herkömmlichen sinn funktioniert. Wer nur das Audio kennt, braucht etwas mehr phantasie, vor allem dann, wenn die improvisation kurz in der sackgasse landet. Die Momente sind aber die Ausnahme in einem Konzert, bei dem die Musiker*innen ziemlich verlässlich immer wieder Antworten auf selten gestellte fragen finden".
Holger Pauler Freistil 12/19

"If you think a combination of multiple voices accompanied by synth and percussion don't make for great partners, think again. The members of Speak Easy confront, delight, improvise but most importantly, have fun with each others idiosyncrasies. Recorded at the lovely Nickelsdorf fest which happens yearly in a small Austrian village, this record pleases the ears and comes highly recommended."
Tom Swift

"There are only a few musicians who still play, let alone concentrate on analogue synthesizer. Although it was much more popular in the mid-seventies when it first became commercially available, so few have continued to specialize in its playing. Thomas Lehn continues to explore sounds with this synth and works in several bands like Konk Pack and a trio with John Butcher & Matt Shipp. For as long as I’ve known of & heard British vocalist, Phil Minton, I have been a fan of his extreme vocal antics and directing of his Feral Choir. The other vocalist here, Ute Wassermann, is someone that I don’t know very well, although she has also worked with Furt and fORCH, who have releases on Evan Parker’s PSI label, as well as singing for the composer Chaya Czernowin. Percussionist, Martin Blume, has also gotten around and worked with Philipp Wachsmann, Jim Denley and Luc Houtkamp. 
This seems to the second disc from Speakeasy, the first one came out in 2009. This disc was recorded at Festival Konfrontation in Nickelsdorf, Austria in July of 2016. As someone who truly appreciates those wacky, occasionally extreme vocals, this CD makes me smile. I recognize Mr. Minton’s often hilarious cartoon character-like voice, yet this is just a part of his extended palette. Both vocalists, the synth and percussion sound marvelous together, carefully weaving their sounds tightly around one another. I like that much of this is on the quieter side, giving the quartet time to slowly unfold and improvise carefully together, the interaction is often subtle yet varied so we to listen closely to hear everything that is going on. It is often fascinating and rarely too dense or over-the-top. This is one the better improv discs I’ve heard recently although it does take some patience and close listening to hear all that is going on here above and below the surface." -
Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG 

"Speak Easy - @ Konfrontationen (Confront Records, 2019) ****
Speak Easy is the quartet of British vocal artist Phil Minton with German vocal artist-sound poet Ute Wassermann, who adds bird whistles to her vocals, percussionist Martin Blume, and Vienna-based Thomas Lehn on analogue EMS synthesizer. This free-improvising quartet has been active since 2008 and released its debut album, Backchats (Creative Sources, 2009), a live recording from Bochum, Germany from March 2008, followed by a DVD, The Loft Concert (PanRec, 2009), documenting a performance from a day later. The sophomore album is another live recording, captured at the Austrian Konfrontationen festival in Nickelsdorf on July 2016.
The audience of the Konfrontationen festival is the perfect one for this kind of eccentric quartet, familiar with all its musicians and eager to be startled and amazed by more and more eccentricities. And Speak Easy (a nickname for secret, intimate bars who sold drinks during the prohibition ban on alcohol in the United States, 1920-1933) provides exactly this recipe - 52 minutes of “Speechless”, a wild, funny, intense piece, one that never ceases to offer weird sonic inventions and strange yet emphatic dynamics. No doubt, Minton, Wassermann, Blume and Lehn found their very own way of speaking - urgent, easy, touching, intoxicating, sometimes with subtle, explosive noises, but always ready to share their most intimate secrets and teach their new languages to the curious, adventurous listeners.
Eyal Hareuveni, Free Jazz blog

Allabout jazz 4 1/2 stars:

"Recorded in July 2016, at Festival Konfrontationen in Nickelsdorf, Austria, this album consists of a single track lasting fifty-two minutes, which probably represented the entire Speak Easy set at the festival. Speak Easy comprises vocalists Ute Wassermann and Phil Minton, with Thomas Lehn on analogue synthesizer and Martin Blume on drums and percussion. The quartet previously released Backchats (Creative Sources, 2009), the same year its DVD The Loft Concert was issued (see YouTube below.)

As Wasserman and Minton both collaborate with other voice performers—she with Jaap Blonk on Wasserman, Blonk & Vorfeld (Kontrans, 2019) and with Duncan Harrison and Dylan Nyoukis on Dissecting an Utterance (Spricht Editions, 2019); he with his Feral Concord and the larger Feral Choir, and also with Nyoukis as a duo and in the trio Skatgobs—it is a pleasure to hear the two together in what is tantamount to a summit meeting of improvising voice performers. In particular, it is good to hear them together in front of an audience, as they both blossom when performing live in concert. Typically, both Wasserman and Minton live up to the description "voice performers" rather than "singers"; they both sing rather well at times, but they do far more than that with their vocal chords, feeding off one another and creating what sounds like a large cast of characters—human and otherwise—throughout the performance.

Although the two vocalists could probably have given a duo performance, great credit is due to Lehn and Blume for supplying a sympathetic, supportive soundscape in which the vocalists can relax and be creative without being unduly mindful of fitting in with that background. In the event, all four elements fit together beautifully, sounding as if they were designed for each other. The group performance flows easily without any awkward stop-start moments or clashes between the intentions of one member and the others. Altogether, this is an object lesson in how four people ought to improvise together, whatever their means of making music."
John Eyles, allaboutjazz