CD Reviews

Sunday 26th July

July 26, 2009

apstropheWell the pub quiz went better than I thought it would, fun was had by all and a decent amount of money raised for a local handicapped children’s charity. The only downside is that I had to shout so loud to be heard by all as I asked the questions that I have now just about lost my voice completely. Never mind. I am home now with a soothing cup of camomile tea and a gentle CD playing. I realised on the way home tonight that this post marks six months of my daily posting. I committed to doing at least a year like this, so I am halfway to that milestone. Also, this morning I upgraded the site to run on the new version of WordPress, which includes a good few changes that make writing this post a much more enjoyable experience. In theory nothing should have changed with regard to how it looks to readers, but please let me know if you spot any errors or if things have stopped working somewhere and I didn’t notice.

Anyway this morning was spent slightly bemused by repeated listening to a recording of Janacek’s string quartets, (mad rollercoaster-ride music) but tonight on the journey home and again right now I have been listening to Objects sense objectes, an album by Ferran Fages and Dimitra Lazaidou Chatzigoga under the name Ap’ostrophe. In recent years Fages has released a couple of very strong solo guitar albums that saw him shift away from the intense abstractions of his work in Cremaster towards more melodic, partly composed, emotive Baileyesque playing. Here on this disc he sometimes plays in a similar manner, but also extends the approach backwards to a more textural approach. Chatzigoga plays zither, sometimes in a traditional manner, more often applying extended techniques of one kind or another though.

There are four tracks on the album, all confusingly titled. The first is called 3, the second is called 6, the third is titled 7/2 and the last 12. I have no idea why. The music is in general quite sparse. It is all acoustic and very well recorded. In a comment that followed Al Jones’ excellent review of the album at Bagatellen, Simon Reynell described the music as clean and clear. That is a great way to explain it. There are no big long silences but also no dense passages or areas where you lose track of who is doing what. Guitar notes are frequent, but carefully placed, the extended sounds we hear (eBow tones and grainy vibrations in the main) are simple, quiet and well chosen, and Chatzigoga’s use of the wide scope of the zither is kept in check, working with a small set of sounds at any one time. I am reminded of the simplicity of any number of Derek Bailey duets, but perhaps more directly by some of Taku Sugimoto’s duo recordings from around the start of the decade, his work with Annette Krebs in particular.

The opening track, at just under six minutes is a nice, controlled little piece of improvisation mostly made up of plucked notes from each musician set off against each other through careful choices of contrasting pitch. The second track however, clocking in at just over half an hour in length provides most of the album’s strongest music. Here the space given by the extended track length is used well, with some delicate buzzing of agitated strings, scrapes, plucks and purrs all dropped evenly throughout. Perhaps the track is just a little bit too long, causing it to become a sprawling expanse with some truly beautiful moments scattered throughout rather than retaining a strong sense of shape and structure, but this is a small complaint in light of some of the joys to be found throughout. Sounds are allowed to decay slowly, the death of each note captured beautifully by the excellent recording. There is a distinct physicality apparent to every sound. The listener can picture each being made and engage closely with the interaction between the musicians as everything evolves very slowly.

The third track features a lot of loosely strung notes from one instrument or the other, buzzing gently as they die away, every vibration hanging cleanly in the air. This piece, like the poignant, almost mournful closing track allow the instruments to really have their say, with every strike of every string presented beautifully. There is a kind of slowed-down blues feel to the last twelve minute study that reminds me again of Sugimoto, or perhaps actually Resonator period Akiyama. At times, when Chatzigoga’s loosely tuned zither strings purr deeply it feels like I am listening to a Robert Johnson record slowed right down to a virtual stop, with each miniscule particle of the playing audible. Later in the track some stunningly well controlled tones can be heard following individual notes, barely audible but powerfully resonant.

 Obects sense objects is a lovely record, very simple and honest in its construction, placing the musician’s individual and collaborative contributions right upfront with nowhere to hide. Occasionally this reveals bad choices made, but more often than not it just exposes the emotive musicality of the two improvisers and their collaborative processes. Definitely one for rainy Sunday evenings with the lights dimmed and the stereo down low. This album is even better than the two recent Fages solo discs if you ask me, and a fine first exposure to Chatzigoga’s work (she is from Greece by the way) Really nice stuff, released on the Etude label.

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