AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Carl Testa – Iris

Carl Testa: Iris [Lockstep LKSTP 023]

This new release from New Haven bassist /composer Carl Testa offers a highly listenable take on the active interface of solo double bass and live electronics.

The four tracks here—totaling a too-brief 37 minutes or so—were recorded live in the studio, with Testa improvising on double bass routed through a sampling and granulating computer program of his own design. Overall, the pieces tend toward a kind of constructivism in which cascading complexities of sound are built up from simple starting elements such as a single tone from an open string, or percussive strikes. From these elements the sound ramifies in several directions, turns back in on itself, accumulates and reemerges transformed, though with the core still recognizable.

For example Early Bright, the opening track, begins with the accelerating pulse of the bow bouncing on the open G string; pitches divide, echo and accumulate into a shimmering foundation for a Lydian-flavored improvisation that evolves into the grinding sound of overpressured bowing and an emphatically rhythmic pizzicato. The initial taps and handstrikes of Diffracted build up into a rumbling subtext before moving to a rapid vibrato and an emergent theme constructed around a descending glissando, while And Engulfed closes the recording with a flowing melody that undergoes a labyrinthine process of metamorphosis.

In sum, a well-done excursion into electroacoustic improvisation that never subordinates musicality to experimentation.