AMN Reviews: Rodrigues Torres & Bullock – Asteres Planetai

Rodrigues Torres & Bullock: Asteres Planetai [cs246]

The title of this release is Greek for “wandering stars,” the name the ancient Greeks gave the planets, whose orbits appeared irregular compared to the observed circular motion of the so-called fixed stars. It serves as a nice metaphor for the sounds created by these three instrumentalists which, like the observed paths of the planets, converge and diverge in patterns that resist reduction to simple figures.

Recorded in June 2013 in Lisbon, the three improvisations presented here feature Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Nuno Torres on alto saxophone, and Mike Bullock on modular synthesizer. All three tracks consist of sound construction built up of quiet textures and drones interspersed with moments verging on silence. The subtle dynamics are occasionally broken by upsurges in volume, which are all the more dramatic given the general understatement of the playing. The twittering, humming and burbling sounds of Bullock’s modular synth act as a sort of frame within which Rodrigues and Torres set out their own sounds. Both approach their instruments as material to be broken down into constituent parts: Rodrigues anatomizes the viola through exploratory string tapping, plucking, and a skittering bow, while Torres somehow makes reed, breath and metal tube audible as separate sound sources. In sum, this is improvisation of a gratifyingly nuanced