Sustained horn tones naturally blend with electronic ambient music and jazz improvisation in Syrinx Effect.
The duo comprises trombonist Naomi Moon Siegel of Missoula and saxophonist Kate Olson of Seattle, both of whom contribute songs and manipulate their horns with effects.
"A Sky You Could Strike A Match On," is their first full-length album, following three EPs. Siegel said the two half-jokingly call it their "pop" album: it's more composed, with more groove and drum-beats.
They recorded it in Seattle in 2015 and 2016, in collaboration with Eric Eagle, a drummer, producer and audio engineer, at his studio, Skoor Sound, and Siegel's home studio.
Siegel, an Oberlin Conservatory graduate, moved to Missoula last year from Seattle, where she was an active member of the music scene, whether the genre was jazz, funk, world music or a combination of many. Those collaborators include pianist-composer Wayne Horvitz, who's recorded with avant-garde icon John Zorn. Shortly before moving to the Garden City, she was featured in Downbeat, the flagship jazz magazine.
Olson has played with a wide swath of musicians, too. In the jazz-creative composition realm, she played with Horvitz as well. Other gigs show an omnivorous background: minimalist classical composer Terry Riley, avant-garde composer Pauline Oliveros, drummer-bandleaders Allison Miller and Bobby Previte, plus Sir Mix-a-lot and an all-star Big Star cover band.
The two began playing together at a regular event called the Racer Sessions about six to seven years ago. Initially, the unusual format was a way for them to experiment with electronics, which they were both newly intrigued in applying to free improvisation. Olson used pedals as well, but moved on to a laptop and software.
When they first started out, it was a "vulnerable, exposed experience" for Siegel. She'd "never performed in that kind of a small format with another horn player."
"The range of sounds and timbres and ideas and gestures she makes on the instrument is always an inspiration," Siegel said. Olson's also a great listener, with a contrasting set of stylistic interests, she added.
They found the line-up, with horns sans rhythm section or even a chordal instrument, was "challenging and pushed our limits as experimentalists and improvisers."
With the help of guitar effects pedals and a laptop, the music on the new album doesn't sound sparse unless they feel like it should. They can loop short backing riffs, create a wall of sustained notes that mimics either a full horn section or the sustained synths of ambient music, or cue up minimal electronic drum patterns.
Often they'll cycle through many of those modes in the course of a song. "Redwood Cry" begins with lightly dissonant horn lines, a pretty unison line, toward a march-like repetition where Siegel takes a great solo, through a sequence with almost Eastern melodies, into a wall of sound with Olson playing a great solo.
While these techniques are unconventional, the resulting music is richly tonal, placing a premium on unison lines or taking turns lightly ceding the foreground. It's just as much a writer's album as a jazz record. There's plenty of great soloing, a variety of moods: funk ("Bottomfeeder"), bluesier playing ("Mobligations"), ambient horn ballads ("Gretta Returns to Dream") and a nod to traditional swing ("The Bankrobber Song.")
While Siegel is based in Missoula, Olson lives in Seattle. She's coming to play three shows in Montana, a gig in Helena plus two in Missoula. The album will be out soon on digital and vinyl releases.
Siegel said their shows are heavy on improvisation, plus the naturally differentiated sounds that occur when a live wind instrument is filtered through electronics.