AMN Reviews: Colin Webster and Graham Dunning – Estigate [LOR050]

Recorded in a London, UK storage facility over the course of two days in winter and summer 2012, this stimulating set of eight live improvisations is a soundtrack of things confronted in their raw state.

Colin Webster draws a kind of elemental expressionism from tenor and baritone saxophones, making all the parts of the instruments audible as he figuratively disassembles and reassembles them as he plays. Through key clicks, overblown notes, air sounds and multiphonics Webster conveys a vivid picture of the player transmitting ideas directly through the instrument’s material. Complementing him is Graham Dunning’s turntable, feeding in Dunning’s field recordings via dubplate supplemented by a spectrum of pops, crackles and the mechanical groan of motors running down under pressure and then returning to speed.

Although fully improvised, the tracks all embody an inherent sense of composition that makes good use of variations in density and timbre through layering and sonic contrast.

AMN Reviews: Rodrigues Laurain Rodrigues Guerrero – Alba [cs248]; Rodrigues Gauguet Guerrero – Early Reflections [cs258]

Although differing in their instrumentation, both of these new releases from Portugal’s Creative Sources label share a concern with sound color powerful enough to verge on the overtly visual.

Begin with Alba, which contains four improvisations by Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Louis Laurain on trumpet, Guilherme Rodrigues on cello and Ricardo Guerreiro on computer. All four pieces exist within a sonic space of subtle movement. The basic sound shape running throughout most of the recording is a slowly mutating, ambiguously dissonant chord wrapped in an outer shell of electronic white noise. Although the identity of individual instruments is largely submerged, here and there their signature traces emerge, such as slow, pressure-heavy bowstrokes; a rush of breath; the scrape of hair or the tap of wood against strings. Somehow, it’s hard not to hear Alba through the impressions suggested by its title. “Alba” is Portuguese for “white”, and the four improvisations individually and collectively bring to mind Kandinsky’s or Ryman’s white-on-white paintings. As with the paintings these four tracks seem at first to be monochromatic, but on closer attention they reveal a spectrum of shadings in their details.

Early Reflections again features Ernesto Rodrigues and Ricardo Guerreiro, who are joined by Bertrand Gauguet on alto saxophone. Both of the release’s two long improvisations are abstract in the manner of the best abstract paintings, where form is a function of the relationships among colors. Through a series of plucked notes, key clicks, microtones, multiphonics and more, Rodrigues and Gauguet draw a rich range of timbres from their instruments, while Guerreiro’s electronics provide the canvas on which these colors are ranged. Together, the three juxtapose and overlap planes of sound, pushing and pulling at each other and allowing each piece to develop through shifts of density and dynamics.

With both of these recordings, one can almost visualize the plasticity of sounds as they respond to each other across the surfaces of audio space. A rewarding listen individually and taken together.

AMN Reviews: Bristophe – le fils de la prophétesse

Bristophe: le fils de la prophétesse [pyr099]

Bristophe is the cosmopolitan duo of Brice Catherin (French/Swiss) and Christophe Schweizer (Swiss/German), who here present two and a half hours of largely improvised music on two virtual discs. Although as instrumentalists Catherin is best known as a cellist and Schweizer as a trombonist, here they play a multitude of instruments too numerous to mention, as well as electronics.

The nearly 70 tracks gathered here were selected from a run of two weeks in the studio and are offered without retouching. On them, Catherin and Schweizer succeed in weaving a creative continuum of sound enfolding a full spectrum running from music to noise. The first disc collects 58 short pieces, each of which serves as a kind of sonic vignette. Several of these pieces work together to form suites—for example, tracks 7-13 provide seven sonic perspectives on a piano—thus allowing the development of ideas within short forms. The second disc contains longer cuts that develop on a more expansive scale, making subtle use of dynamics and silences along the way.


AMN Reviews: C. Reider & C. Hodges – Four Improvisations

C. Reider & C. Hodges: Four Improvisations [open sound group]

This early 2013 offering from the Open Sound Group is, just as its title rather modestly states, four improvisations by sound artists C. Reider and C. Hodges, performed and recorded at various dates between 2010 and 2012. Throughout, Reider and Hodges employ various combinations of electronic and acoustic sound sources to produce soundscapes of a starkly intriguing beauty.

The first track is an entrancing twenty-four minute improvisation of metal (Hodges) and metal and electronics (Reider). Beginning with the shimmer of echoing metallic sounds, it unfolds into washes of electronic tones spreading out in long cycles. As the piece develops, long and short cycles of sound—grounded in echoes and drones—phase in and out. At the heart of it all are the sonic properties of metal as it is struck, scraped and rubbed. Reider and Hodges leave stretches of space between the sounds in order to structure the piece with a resonant, open architecture. Metal serves as the foundation for the third improvisation as well, with Hodges credited with “shake tines” and Reider with “tall tines.” The emergent sound is reminiscent of irregularly struck bells with long decay times and pauses between soundings. The second track, a pulsing, drone-based piece, has Hodges on guitar and Reider on voice and electronics, while the very brief closing improvisation, sounding like the rush of air through a wind tunnel, is wryly credited to Hodges on “ottoman” with Reider “listening.”

This is a deeply absorbing work of nuance and finely-drawn timbral contrast.

AMN Reviews: Squetti – squetti

Squetti – squetti [echomusic]

The six unnamed tracks on this release from the trio of Artur Matamoro Vidal (alto saxophone, objects and radio), Maria Papadomanolaki (transmitters and electronics), and electric guitarist Yiorgis Sakellariou were recorded over the course of two sessions at the London College of Communication this past June.

All six pieces are largely devoted to experiments in sound color and texture. Although the individual tracks differ from one another, taken collectively they trace a kind of narrative arc that begins with a surf of white noise and (literally) struck guitar strings, moves to a solo for radio (track 2) and through to an insistent pattern of guitar chords moving in half steps (track 5), and culminates in a denouement of fluttering sax and pulsing electronics. The three musicians play with a sensitivity that allows their voices to shift back and forth in dominant and subordinate roles, creating spontaneous structures based on timbral relationships. Individual contributions interlace into a collective object of variable dynamics and shape-shifting profile in which hard-edged electronics, unconventional saxophone and aggressive guitar chords simmer in a tasty ragout of hums, rasps, honks, buzzes and feedback.