Few notions encapsulate the human condition more tidily than the notion of passage: of passing to different places or stages of life, or simply passing through in any of its literal or figurative meanings. On pressing clouds passing crowds guitarist/composer Kim Myhr has collaborated with poet Carolyn Bergvall on a suite of pieces touching on passage and transience in their many manifestations.
The music, which was written before Bergvall’s words were composed, is performed by Myhr on twelve-string guitar and Ingar Zach on percussion, along with the string quartet Quatuor Bozzini, from Montreal. In a structural allusion to passage the six parts of the suite segue naturally from one to the other, and feature repeated figures, ringing chords and arpeggios over insistent rhythms; for the Bozzini there are restrained drones and elongated, unstable chords with subtly rising and falling inner voices. Myhr’s penchant for repetition underscores the spirit of Bergvall’s text: repetition, as the recurrence of something that by itself doesn’t last, is simply the other side of flux. By the same token, Bergvall’s text is well-suited to the music: through images, anecdotes and aphorisms, she crafts an anti-narrative of what it’s like to experience the passing nature of things—in her words, to “move into unknown terrain where the ground is imperceptibly changing.”
On this second release by the international trio O3—Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach, Italian flutist Alessandra Rombolá, and Spanish accordionist Esteban Algora—the group return to the chapel of Ermita de la Anunciada in Urueña, Spain, where their debut recording was made. This new recording opens with two resonant and widely-spaced percussive thumps, gradually followed by the clink of ceramic surfaces in collision and the whoosh and scrape of objects finding their voices. It’s an appropriate introduction to the exploration of space and timbre that follows. O3’s work is a kind of abstract painting with sound—more Miró than Pollock—with splashes of color in irregular shapes occupying discrete zones of audio space. Although the sound textures tend toward a higher density the further the playing develops, the points at which sounds join tend to be permeable; so too are the spaces between individual pieces, with the seven tracks working together as a single, non-narrative suite of timbral events.
The four pieces on Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach’s Le stanze exploit the many-faceted sounds at the meeting place of an expanded percussion set, electronics and silence. The release begins austerely enough, with long emptinesses broken by the occasional scrape, rub or thump reverberating in an enveloping silence. The aptly titled second track, Il battito del vichingo (the Viking’s beat), enlists resonant, hollow metal for a rapid, regular rhythm that eventually stops short to leave an exposed, static chord. This in turn gives way to rattles and strikes on shimmering metal. Closing out the collection, the surge and decay of L’inno dell’oscuritá (The Hymn of Obscurity) opens out to the harsh abrasive electronics of È solitudine (It Is Solitude).
Houston’s Rothko Chapel—an austere room lit with natural light and dedicated to the display of fourteen of Mark Rothko’s late, subdued color field paintings—is a congenial site for improvised performances by the international trio Mural. The group, made up of Norwegian Kim Myhr on guitar; percussionist Ingar Zach, a Norwegian now living in Spain; and Australian Jim Denley on alto saxophone and flutes, has played there twice before the April 2013 date recorded and issued on this three-CD set. (A previous performance, from March 2010, was recorded and released in 2011 by the Rothko Chapel’s own publishing concern.)
Reflecting the immersive, contemplative atmosphere of the Chapel, Tempo captures the last three-quarters or so of Mural’s over four-hour-long continuous performance. Although each of the three discs can be listened to by itself, the music’s full effect and the group’s deftness at developing sonic textures over long cycles only becomes forcefully apparent when all three are heard in sequence during a single listening.
The release’s title says something essential about the music given not only its expansive duration but the way it sets out a concatenation of sound events coming into and going out of existence in time. Mural’s pacing and arrangement of sound into alternating fields and figures create a sense of musical time imagined as having been precipitated into a narrative sequence with all of its peaks and valleys, its alternations of episodes of activity and rest. Through subtle, largely timbral playing Mural collapses time into a single moment present in a low-frequency sound field extending in all directions; through more urgent, rhythmically driven sections—led by Myhr’s energetic pulse on guitar—the dynamic of time’s passage is made clear.
Throughout it all Myhr, Zach and Denley have an intuitive rapport that doesn’t lapse even over such a long period of playing. Zach’s bells, gongs, drums and pitched percussion are put to good coloristic use over the entire course of the performance; Denley’s sax and flutes can be plaintive, abrasive, abstract or voice-like as the moment requires. Myhr is a strong ensemble player who can, when needed, push the group with chordal ostinatos or an insistent, jangling strum just as easily has he can bind the music during its quieter passages.
Collected over a period of ten years, the tracks making up Ingar Zach and Miguel Angel Tolosa’s debut duo release Loner combine percussion with electronics, electric guitar and field recordings. Zach, a native of Oslo now living in Madrid, played free improvisation in different configurations in Norway before moving to Spain, where his developing interests brought him to folk music as well as to more structure forms of experimental music. Composer/sound engineer Tolosa, also based in Madrid, has written spare works for a wide of instruments. Conceptually, he’s interested in the way the listener experiences music as the manifestation of time, and it is this concept that would seem to underlie Loner, the music of which seems designed to embody the drift of time as an unbroken field.
The four tracks share an overall atmosphere that could be described as a kind timbral impressionism conveyed by an enveloping, low key drone. Other sounds emerge and wash into each other; their boundaries are for the most part porous and their shapes soft-edged. At times the more assertive, sharper-edged profiles of metallic percussion or high-frequency electronics push through, but in general this is a textural music the colors of which are drawn from a muted palette.