AMN Reviews: Camila Nebbia & Patrick Shiroishi – The Human Being As A Fragile Article (2021; Bandcamp); Camila Nebbia – Corre el río… (2021; Ramble Records)

This duet by experimental saxophonists Nebbia and Shiroishi explores human vulnerability through ten tracks of varying lengths. Along with freely-improvised sax warbling and fragments of thematic development, the pair also employs field recordings (birdsong, environmental noises), percussion (bells, chimes, tapping), spoken and chanted voice, and other elements. Their lines weave in and out of one another, shifting between clean and distorted tones, as well as from inside to outside and back again. The voices serve as yet another instrument rather than for purposes of song – a further layer of dialog between Nebbia and Shiroishi in addition to their sax work.

Corre el río… (I’m shortening a much longer 20+ word title), features an all-female quartet led by Nebbia and including Barbara Togander on vocals and turntables, Violeta García on cello, and Paula Shocron on piano, vocals, and percussion. The album centers around one very long piece (almost 40 minutes) that is a musical representation of an Argentine gender violence map covering January – July 2020. Such a serious topic deserves and receives a commensurately a serious approach from Nebbia and company.

In a structural improvisation with little in the way of melody or rhythm, García and Schocron contribute a muted sense of urgency with staccato percussion and grinding cello. This haunting soundscape is eventually overlaid with frenetic piano from Schocron and forceful outside sax explorations from Nebbia. While rough and textural, the piece covers a wide variety of moods and tones as it alternates between explosions of sounds and quieter moments. The voices are virtually continuous, again spoken rather than sung.

Admittedly, my first listen through was without reading the liner notes, and I came out of it with the gut reaction that this was a moving and compelling example of modern improv with a strange darkness hanging over it. After understanding the inspiration and source material for the album and listening again, I felt a more focused set of emotions – the anxiety and trepidation of that now-identified darkness.

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