The pairing of alto saxophonist patrick brennan and guitarist Abdul Moimême on terraphonia is an especially piquant one whose symbiosis is, paradoxically, an organic outgrowth of a constant polarity of sound.
The album was recorded in April in Lisbon, the home base for Moimême, a Portuguese native who also has lived in Ireland and the United States. Although his main instrument, as here, is electric guitar, Moimême also studied tenor saxophone under brennan, a New York-based musician. A composer as well as an improviser, brennan has since the 1970s pursued an original musical vision that includes solo saxophone performances as well as composing polyrhythmic works based on short, overlapping melodic cells for a large, modularly-organized ensemble.
There is a basic structure that ties together the seven tracks on terraphonia, a structure that consists in a timbral juxtaposition and contrast growing out of a more or less ongoing difference in voices. On the one side, abstract electronic sound from Moimême’s prepared guitars; on the other, the voice-like inflections of brennan’s wind-channeling alto saxophone and cornet. Moimême’s creative use of a broad spectrum of sounds based on qualities other than pitch frames each piece, while the emotional center of gravity lies in the forceful immediacy of brennan’s playing. The latter includes a generous but judicious use of extended technique, dynamic variation and broken phrasing that parallel the multifaceted qualities of the human voice—its confident assertion and hesitation, its full-throated stridency and confidential whisper. The opposition of timbres that emerges from the relationship between brennan and Moimême makes possible a distinctive kind of confluence: In place of the conventional motive engine of harmonic tension and release, the two set up an intricate, contrapuntal web of convergence and divergence in phrasing and dynamics. Through their sensitivity to each other’s contributions, brennan and Moimême are able to transform the particulars of contrast and difference into a higher-level, expressive synthesis.