AMN Reviews: Cecilia Lopez – RED (DB) (2021; Relative Pitch Records)

Even in a position where you get to hear quite a large amount of unusual music on a regular basis, that does not prepare you for Cecilia Lopez’s new release, RED (DB). On one 50-minute track, Lopez combines her electronics with the skills of drummer Gerald Cleaver and bassist Brandon Lopez to create humming textures and drones as well glissando-like sounds. Julia Cavagna provided scored actions.

The reason for this uniqueness is that the recording comes from a performable sound installation. At New York’s Roulette, drums and double bass were hung from suspended woven wire nets. These nets resonated as the instruments were played, creating feedback that accompanied Cecilia’s electronics. Cleaver’s percussion is indirectly heard, as he mostly generates abstractions and pulses of rattling. Aside from a few powerfully-played passages, his efforts do not sound like kit-based drumming. Brandon makes use of bowed bass, and plays entirely in an outside fashion. He lets his angular motifs echo in a loop-like fashion.

Structurally, the piece includes a roughly-hewn background drone, electronics that resembles a siren (that latter evolve into discordant warbling), and two voices of throbbing foreground improvisation. Often, these lines combine into sound walls. Again, the focus here is not on melody or rhythm, but texture and color. The closest comparison that comes to mind is the recent release of Three Drones by Wóma, also based on “playing” a form of resonator, but this piece is more dynamic. Regardless, RED (DB) stands on its own as a singular and oddly beautiful offering.