AMN Reviews: Powertrio – Di lontan [Clean Feed CF356CD / Shhpuma SHH018CD]

61+4-B7y6hL._SS280Incongruously, Powertrio, the Portuguese new music/improvisational ensemble of harpist Eduardo Roan, pianist Joana Sá and classical guitarist Luis Martins, take the generic name of rock music’s heaviest configuration. Incongruously because the sound of the group is the antithesis of the loud, often heavy-handed sonic assault of a typical rock power trio. In fact Roan, Sá and Martins, who formed Powertrio in 2007, create often delicate, shimmeringly beautiful surfaces of sound that put to best use the family resemblances of plucked, struck and strummed strings.

From the first track, À flor do mal, the bright timbres of guitar and harp lend a characteristic tone that will color much of the release through various reworkings and filterings. O nervo e a outra dança moves into more contrastive territory, with a carillon-like chiming sound underscoring the piece and playing off the creaking and scraping sounds that arise within its framework. The mood is largely pensive, marked by suspended time and the sometimes surprising dramatic development of rising and falling dynamics. Di lontan fa specchio il mare, an arrangement of a work by Portuguese composer/pianist Constança Capedeville (1937-1992), holds interlocking melodic cells in a now overt, now covert state of tension. This austerely lovely piece is deliberately paced, with each note seemingly weighed and pondered before being allowed to sound. The closing Divertimento lightens the atmosphere with brief and rapid bursts of notes—resembling at times a fractured flamenco—that suggest a dance of halting steps growing bolder and more percussively assured.

Daniel Barbiero