Some creative partnerships are the product of steady work: regular rehearsals, residencies or running engagements at clubs or other performance spaces. The Sardinian trio A Sphere of Simple Green are something else. This electroacoustic ensemble of double bassist Adriano Orrù, pianist/toy pianist Silvia Corda, and electronics sound artist Simon Balestrazzi released one album shortly after forming in 2010, 2011’s Untitled Soundscapes; With an Oblique Glance, their second release, follows after a six-year lapse.
One of the advantages—at least in theory—of a freely-improvising ensemble’s playing together relatively infrequently is that it keeps the participants at the edge of alertness and the music consequently fresh and, when desired, unpredictable. At the same time, the internal dynamic will be driven by at least some prior experience of the sensibilities in play: as an analogy, imagine a field open to exploration that contains a handful of familiar landmarks, rather than a completely new situation that solicits a sometimes serendipitous but still essentially blind groping. With this new recording, A Sphere of Simple Green put that theory into practice.
The group’s ability to strike a fine balance among their voices is apparent from the very first track. Stabs of piano and toy piano complement a bass whose strings are struck with the bow and scraped as well; the acoustic instruments’ abstract sounds fold naturally into a discreet wash of electronics. Over the course of the set, Orrù and Corda display an adeptness at combining extended techniques on their respective instruments to create hybrid timbres whose quasi-artificiality blends well with the more natural artificiality of Balestrazzi’s palette of sounds. And yet the more conventionally produced sounds—the long tones bowed on the bass or sparse piano chords—feel just as appropriately placed. The trio’s particular gift is their sensitivity to audio space as an almost three-dimensional container of sound: something to be filled but never over-filled, a room in which objects are defined as much by what they leave open around them as by how far they extend.