AMN Reviews: A Sphere of Simple Green – Untitled Soundscapes

A Sphere of Simple Green: Untitled Soundscapes (mwt 02)

A Sphere of Simple Green—the name derives from Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Grass So Little Has to Do” — is a trio of Adriano Orru on double bass, Silvia Corda on prepared piano, and Simon Balestrazzi on laptop, toy psaltery and VCS3. The three soundscapes they have issued on this EP are fully improvised collages in which events are encountered in a non-narrative sequence that follows the logic of sound color rather than harmonic or melodic progression.

The recording opens with a metallic crash and rattle, an electric hum overlapping the staccato tones from Corda’s prepared piano. The bass strings are attacked with a rapidly percussive spiccato and col legno battuto, followed by rapid bursts of conventional arco playing through the piano’s suspenseful chords. The electronics provide a textural backdrop through which the other two instruments weave.

At just over ten minutes the second soundscape is the longest; it is also the most consistently rhythmic. Orru’s aggressively regular spiccato sets the piece up and reappears throughout as a kind of motif, though often altered in timbre and tempo. Balestrazzi’s electronics are to the fore, punctuated by stabs on the piano. Layers of sound fold back on themselves through reverse looping and the repetition of sound phrases in and out of phase. At times one imagines hearing skittering insects and an alarm bell off in the distance.

The final track features the electronics’ floating long tones suspended over an E, whether stated on the bass’s plucked open string or implied by surrounding activity. The E functions less as a harmonic center than as a point to return to, a landmark in a hazy atmosphere of heavy echoes out of which the bass’s upper register tones and harmonics emerge.

A Sphere of Simple Green succeeds in creating a coherent sound painting out of the colors available to the musicians. The voices heard here are diverse but well-integrated, each retaining its own character even while in the midst of the others. In terms of timbre, the array of instruments and effects proves a good match, leaning toward a hard-edged sound that benefits from the close-miking and crisp recording. For this set of improvisations in which gestures rather than phrases determine the pattern of interaction, all three musicians are well attuned to each other, building an organic sound from complementary movement.

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