AMN Reviews: Ricardo Jiménez & Antonio Ramírez – Génesis Negro (2021; Sentencia Records); Hidden Forces Trio & Alejandro Rojas-Marcos – Velá (2021; Sentencia Records)

Sentencia Records is a small label from Spain putting out a variety of music on the more extreme ends of the composition / improv continuum. These are its latest pair of releases.

Ricardo Jiménez & Antonio Ramírez – Génesis Negro

The solo instrumentalist carries a heavy burden. They need to use their single instrument, usually in the form of just one non-overdubbed voice, to maintain a listener’s attention for long periods of time. There certainly are many notable successes in this regard, but this should not discount the difficulty of such an effort. Enter Ricardo Jiménez and his guitars. Artist Antonio Ramírez provided a set of surrealist drawings for a project, and Jiménez used them as inspiration for his writing and playing. While ostensibly resembling the works of Sunn O))) due to the use of heavy, overdriven riffs, Jiménez also incorporates a range of textures and tempos. The pieces are structured, with repeating themes, loops, and feedback. Some passages are more textual, with sculpted noise walls. But Jiménez also provides passages played with the distortion pedals off or with an acoustic. But even these more pastoral moments are dark and feature processed sounds in the background. The result is a must-have for anyone who appreciates creative heavy music.

Hidden Forces Trio & Alejandro Rojas-Marcos – Velá

Hidden Forces is Gustavo Domínguez on clarinets, Marco Serrato on double bass, and Borja Díaz on percussion. Here, they are joined by longtime collaborator Alejandro Rojas-Marcos on clavichord for two 24-minute freely improvised excursions recorded live at a book fair (voices captured in the background are charming rather than distracting). As such improv goes, this is of the open-ended sort with generous employment of extended techniques. The quartet eschews traditional notions of melody, harmony, and rhythm for texture, color, and feel. They not only play their instruments, but they also use them as sound-generating implements. Serrato and Díaz provide an ever-shifting threshold racket, including meandering bass lines and rattling percussion. Domínguez offers up angular solos while Rojas-Marcos often saws his clavinet’s strings directly. Not all four musicians play at the same time, with each individual coming and going from the mix. This allows room for personalized expression and also varies the dynamics and density of these pieces. The overall result is a thoughtful pair of explorations.

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