Sunday, 14 June 2009

Creative Sources Avalanche

Ernesto Rodrigues shows no mercy for us poor reviewers. Enjoy this sizeable roundup of semi-synthetic (but hopefully still useful) write-ups, in the hope that it helps a bit to self-orientate amidst the huge quantity of releases by this imprint. Needless to say, more episodes of this collective-reviewing saga will appear pretty soon. Stay tuned.


Classily rigorous, probing improvisations for soprano sax/bass clarinet (Schindler), cello (Holzbauer) and electric guitar/electronics (Lillmeyer). More oriented towards the archetypes of XX-century chamber music than your average CS release, Rot is distinguished by the considerable methodological preparation of all participants. Preparations, in another sense, are also utilized on the instruments to generate a hybrid electroacoustic connectivity whose transcendence rate is to be determined via its balanced investigational ramifications, often hiding behind silence, thus eliciting a mood of enigmatic mystery in various tracks. Specifically, Schindler is a dispassionate dispenser of pragmatic countermeasures whenever the collective need arises, his firm statements and sudden deviations freshening the air even in the (rare) cluttered sections. Holzbauer is as supportive as remarkably delicate, extracting individual reminders and caveats from the cello in a kind of visionary discipline. Lillmeyer’s six-stringed inventions make him appear loyal yet slightly noncompliant, an ideal partner for the depiction of defaced prototypes. The record definitely does not belong to the iPod-on-the-beach category but after three spins everything is falling in place, working impeccably. Speakers in a silent setting highly recommended.

MARK O’LEARY – Fabrikraum

Better known as a perceptive jazz guitarist, O’Leary is here credited with “sound design”, showing another facet of his artistic interests. The key word is “industrial”: this music was in fact generated by assembling location recordings at the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, Ireland. It is, under any aspect, an installation whose temperament is extremely metallic, ominous noises and huge reverberations stretched for long periods, at times with more pronounced percussive features verging on the regular tolling. Think of a cross of the most harmonically pleasing work of David Jackman and Z’EV, with a lesser number of layers. Devotees of similar “forlorn echo” atmospheres - which were highly en vogue in the late 80s - could find a lot of interesting matter. It’s a little bit out of its time and does not present anything considerably striking, yet Fabrikraum works very well for “dynamic background” purposes, not offending the ears when you decide to put further attention to the consistency of the textural tissue.


One is, as always, attempting to deconstruct the normal sounds of a trumpet; the other works on something called “soundtable”, which says everything and nothing, given that the noises that he conjures up range from bowed wood and metal to zing ’n’ sting sharpness and close-microphone scrubbing and scratching of (maybe) sandpaper, or plain paper, or (insert your object here). The combination is functional, despite the fact that we’ve already wandered through these lands time and again: Ulher’s flapping, hissing, sucking, gentle tooting in her stimulation of zillions of irregular upper partials do have repercussions on the listener’s part of the brain that’s more oriented to irony, whereas the extreme concreteness of Metzger’s manipulations add a touch of thickness to the overall sonic tissue. While the record is nicely conceived and completely pleasurable, it also shows that the well of expressive means for this kind of improvisation is not bottomless. A good release sounding like another hundred of similar efforts, the whole masterfully executed but - at this junction in history - hardly groundbreaking.


The instrumentation comprises contrabass, drum set and clarinets. A personal favourite in this batch and, in general, CS’s recent output. A sort of dim-lit chamber music – described as “pragmatic applications of controlled improvisations and compositional structures” - thoroughly relying on the power of extremely low frequencies, contrapuntal answers often consisting of gritty secretions generated by the reeds’ overtones and by the bowing of cymbals and other parts of the percussive arsenal. A critical condition of suspension between the subtle rippling of silence by sparse elements, a “pinch-but-don’t-awake-me” maintenance of a semi-lethargic awareness that nevertheless lets us carefully consider any incident, minuscule or important, which manifests its weight one way or another. Apparently dispassionate, the interaction of the musicians is on the contrary revealing an utmost responsiveness to the slightest movement, a reciprocal will of listening actively which translates into numerous instances where auditory fulfilment becomes almost physical. Diversified approaches to a well-known palette that discard automatic actions in favour of a persistent fragrance of purposeful investigation, with more than a few sections worthy of admiration for the respect of the pure essence of instrumental connectivity.

PAURA – The Construction Of Fear

An atypical combination of talents: Alípio C. Neto (saxes), Dennis González (trumpet, voice), Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Guilherme Rodrigues (cello, radio) and Mark Sanders (drums). The only thing that puzzles me is the rather preposterous theory about surprise and fear in jazz expressed by a Davide Sparti in the inside leaflet and, for good measure, rendered incorrectly in English from the (already incomprehensible) original. But Italy is the country in which books and movies have a different meaning than in the rest of the world due to the hard-to-believe incompetence of translators, so no big news here. Instruments exists, thank god, to deliver us from words and this particular project sounds great: strong, determined, both muscularly affirmed and barely whispered, the improvisations suggesting indeed that kind of anxious feeling that what’s unknown and/or unexpected elicit in frail minds. The timbral melange is at times exceptional, the corpulence of Neto and González versus the fascinating meagreness of the Rodrigueses with Sanders acting as a gifted master of percussive ceremonies. There’s no trace of mellifluousness in this intriguing crossing of free jazz and EAI dipped in theatrical stir, and which defies the inevitable conventions of unrehearsed music for its large part.

DARIO SANFILIPPO – Premio Malattia

Computer music, or – more precisely – “Feedback Network Based Non-Linear Digital Signal Processing System”, also known as FeNeBaNo-LiDiSProS. Easy, isn’t it? Trapani, extreme west of Sicily, a splendid area of fishermen and transparent seas, is the place where this record was realized, although this young composer (1983) - an alumnus of Domenico Sciajno in that city’s conservatory’s electronic music class - hails instead from the inlands of Agrigento. Sanfilippo shows a good command of the mechanics of the utilized means and an appreciable disposition towards non-exaggeration: his palette makes use of buzzing and murmuring in (often) subdued fashion, yet the recordings are equally geared up to surprise with sudden scathing outbursts and fairly irregular unfolding. At first the frequencies are rather ear-wrapping and, in general, brain-cuddling and that’s the face of Premio Malattia that I prefer; as the time goes, the trajectories becomes just a tad predictable, harsher feedback secretions and earth loops quite similar to dozens of other records conceived with the same means. My unspecific sensation gives birth to a vague approval: this man is expected to future improvements, to be followed with curiosity from here.


Subtle duet for piano (and relative innards) and drums, where the accidental and the uncalculated seem to have a decisive prevalence on the preconceived. Music made of obscure clusters and liquefied tints, enriched by the concreteness of an underlying percussiveness in a constant reorganization of instantaneous flows of thought. The level of reciprocal listening is extremely high, and this is the reason which defines the restraint of this conversation as its most engaging attribute. A sonic environment in which even the listener is required to move around with circumspection, almost in a “do not disturb” frame of mind, in which unnecessary ornaments and superficial appearances are forbidden, concentrated expressions coming from the core of individual artistry put at the service of altruism. Gold doesn’t show virtuosity deriving from over-trained, worn out expertise but lets us look at a world of intuitions and foresight, finally leading to a peculiar kind of brooding that allows just a couple of short and snappy flare-ups. A dark horse in this lot, a sleeper which time will appoint as one of the deepest releases in Creative Sources’ catalogue. It leaves faint traces in the ear’s memory, but relates strongly to our consciousness.

POWERTRIO – What We Think When We Walk And What We Walk When Thinking

Powertrio are Eduardo Raon (harp, electronics), Joana Sá (piano, toy piano) and Luís Martins (classical guitar). In the 33 minutes of this CD they reveal themselves to be a very interesting ensemble, working in serious commitment at the margins of a somewhat disturbed quietness, even if not exactly in a “reductionist” sense (on the contrary, occasionally erupting in full-exhilaration mode in pieces such as “Improvisation II” and “Hart Auf Hart”). The notes played and the noise made are always clearly exposed, perhaps slightly modified by the electronic treatments while maintaining a degree of palpability which generates a welcome tension in the music. Their structures are often scraggy and ill-coloured yet possess an evident definition and show personality to spare. The resonance factor is in great evidence, and the ability of letting every event manifest visibly before fading to grey is worth of praise. And, what’s more, the record is greatly functional also in the habitual “open-window” test which I systematically run with this kind of stuff: it meshes gorgeously with the environment, but the presence remains commanding due to its bigger body of sound. Excellent, sober, intelligent work at times surrounded by a late XIX century classic aura. Recommended.

ABDUL MOIMÊME – Nekhephthu

The title, says the protagonist, is “probably a word from a long forgotten language”, while the music was made with a valve amplifier and a couple of prepared electric guitars, the whole recorded live sans overdubs or effects. Grimy, darkish textures tending to an oxidized sort of six-stringed malaise, a gritty tranquillity from which sparse noises and even less “musical” elements spring casually. There seems to be no deeper implication in what Moimême does, other than “constructing space in an organic manner” as per his very words. The problem is that, more than “organic”, this stuff sounds at times excessively frugal, lacking a real artistic sense. What in alternative hands might be recognizable as a generator of at least partially intriguing shades, here becomes the tool for a different kind of noise – sporadically pleasing, but in essence just noise. That said, some of the combinations are not so bad when left to resonate around without additional requests. Nevertheless, this is possibly one of the weakest albums of this group.


No-input mixing board, laptop. What else? One of those cases in which I knew exactly what to anticipate, and that expectation was more or less fulfilled. Not that this automatically spells “masterpiece”, but the work is solid enough to keep the level of my appreciation quite high throughout. Profusion of pressure and dynamic shifts, infected frequencies alternated with harmonically challenging compartments, quavering purrs abruptly interrupted and replaced with frying pans full of venomous bubbling oils, ever-intelligible juxtapositions of components that generate a curious mixture of glacial impassiveness and sizzling rupture. Apparently not causing the growth of significant excrescences in this listener’s psyche, this CD is effective as a sheer account of a process whose results are not necessarily to be considered “music”. Well planned, diligently realized, structurally complex yet not overwhelming. The right adjective is perhaps “impartial”. Fans of this genre can proceed with the purchase without further considerations, bearing in mind that Stationary is not at the same altitudes of the very best in which the Japanese membrane-masseur has been involved. Birds around here seem to like it, though.


Here’s another example of music that meshes very nicely with the rural serenity of a Sunday morning (one of my favourite moments for the ritual of listening, in case someone missed previous references). Canaries On The Pole was realized with clarinets, percussion, objects, toys, violin and “prepared” saxophones at Jazzzolder, Mechelen (Belgium) in 2007. To better highlight the concept of simultaneousness that defines this quartet’s approach, the longest track “In / Out” was enhanced by a microphone placed outside the studio, which captured alluring echoes of the nearby urban environment – including a gorgeous bell tower - while the musicians were improvising. There’s a sense of closeness around the notes, the idea of sharing something extremely profound, which brings several episodes of intense suspension where the players utilize rarefaction and conscious postponement of events to further increase the selflessness factor. Yet we also meet sections where a major determination is perceivable, the instruments in turn coming at the forefront of vivacious interactions never running towards inconsistent behaviour or narcissistic attitude; this collective vibe of ridged awareness remains a constant presence, either in movement or in stasis. It’s exactly this uncharacteristic unevenness that gifts the CD with an aura of inexplicable attractiveness, like observing a hybrid creature of uncertain origin slowly turn into a ravishing vision. Outstanding stuff all the way.