AMN Reviews: Massimo Pupillo & Tony Buck – Time Being and Unseen (2019; Trost Records)

Here is an interesting pairing from Trost. Massimo Pupillo is the bass player from Zu, while Tony Buck is the drummer of The Necks. Both have contributed to many other projects. Time Being and Unseen are a pair of collaborations between the two, the former an LP, the latter a CD. But don’t expect to hear much in the way of traditional bass or drum playing on these recordings as Pupillo and Buck instead offer a disquieting yet powerful ambiance.

Strange Luminant kicks off Time Being with a layered, mid-range drone interspersed with growling bass. Buck’s contributions are subtle and atmospheric but perhaps not surprising if you’ve seen him live. He rubs, scrapes, and shakes various percussion instruments, and provides understated flourishes of what seems to be vibraphone as well. Eventually, this evolves into an interlude of found-object percussion and the aforementioned vibes to round out the last several minutes of the track. Exhale follows with a shifting, abstract soundscape. Rattling elements evoke a sense of mystery and attenuated menace, building to a fractured and heavily processed crescendo that ends this album’s 30 minutes.

Unseen is much longer than its companion piece. It begins with Psithurism, featuring shimmering electronics and muted, echoing percussion. An actual beat is present, as Buck plays his kit though in a restrained fashion. This is accompanied by a rumbling bass rhythm, as well as a melody or two, from Pupillo. While hypnotic, the track is anything but repetitive, as it changes in form and texture throughout its 22 minutes. Entrainment, the longest product of the set at twice that of its predecessor, returns to clattering percussion and dark, distorted waves of sound. If anything, Pupillo and Buck get darker and more impressionistic as they go, combining anxious polyrhythms with both bass-oriented and synthesized motifs.

Time Being and Unseen have that singular quality of many Necks recordings and live performances – the ability to lull one through a long improvised interlude seemingly operating at geological time scales until you realize that the underlying musical structure has morphed dramatically over the last dozen minutes or so. Obviously, there is a big difference between these offerings and Buck’s main band in instrumentation and character. Pupillo and Buck present a volatile and inconstant minimalism that is not really minimalism. Highly recommended.