quinta-feira, 15 de dezembro de 2011

"Schatten" Review by Richard Pinnell

If I am honest I am not really in the mood for writing about music tonight, but as Julie is staying with her Mum for now after their loss I have little to do here other than try and get on with things, and so I have listened a few times to a nice new CD on the Portugese Dromos label by the Berlin improvisational duo of Magda Mayas (piano) and Anthea Caddy (cello). Dromos releases have always arrived in innovative packaging, but this one might be my favourite yet, with each of the 250 copies being packed in handmade splodges of blue crépe paper and wax, each one individual and somehow simultaneously very ugly and quite beautiful. The disc within contains three beautifully recorded studio tracks of dense textural improvisation. The general feel is one that falls neatly midway between the various poles of improvisation’s current trends. It is always very active and energetic, perhaps even aggressively so here and there, but while silence plays little to no part in the music it also doesn’t feel unnecessarily chattery. The thickness of the sound, which is all acoustically created, is down to the way the musicians work here to build looming clouds of sound rather than itchy, scratchy conversations. Mayas’ playing is more percussive than melodic, working in and around the body of the prepared instrument as well as bowing, tapping and plucking at the strings. Often her sound is deeply resonant. Rolling, booming shudders of low register sound match lighter plucks and tones moment for moment. Caddy’s cello varies in intensity as well, often flourishing into extremely wild, wrenching sections of bowing match up to Mayas’ more violently hammering moments just as the delicacy the cello also comes through at other times.

The album is named Schatten, which translates (I think) to Shade- a quite fitting title given the frequently dark, claustrophobic feeling to the music. The musicianship involved here, highlighted in the way the two instruments feed off of one another and respond to one another rather than merely sit adjacent underlines the improvised music traditions at work here, but this CD stands for me as another good example of a currently very interesting area in improv right now- music that focusses texture and carefully chosen sounds but often does so in a talkative, far from reductionist manner, with every sound mattering, nothing there without good reason but also with no fear of making openly expressive music. The heaving, muscular interchanges of bowed strings and thunderous hammering piano that rise up throughout In the shadows lay, the second track here are particularly wonderful, stirring up this old listener for sure, making the hairs stand on end as the music almost abuses the careful listener.

The mix of the delicate and fragile with the dense and heavy is reflected in the CD’s packaging as the thin whispering crepe paper is enveloped in the thick, gloopy wax. That sensation of some kind of oppressive force weighing down on the music, pushing it away from the simply tasteful and into more uncomfortable, yet ultimately rewarding areas remain present throughout what is a really very engaging album indeed. At times this music gets extremely urgent, even angrily so here and there, and right now I can empathise with such an approach. Listening here tonight, letting the urgency of the music unravel around me in an almost violent way felt a little cathartic. For all the beauty of life and the people we meet along the way there are always dark, uncomfortable moments, and sometimes music helps us sort such occasions out. A very fine album then, available here.

- Richard Pinnell on The Watchful Ear

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