CD Reviews

Friday 28th May

May 28, 2010

corgrocTired with a bit of a headache tonight. Not really the best conditions for listening to music and writing reviews but this week exactly four times as many CDs have arrived here as I have managed to write reviews of, and the “To be listened to” pile isn’t going to get any smaller at this rate…

Tonight then I have been listening to the second album by Ap’strophe, the duo of Greek zither player Dimitra Lazaridou Chatzigoga and Spanish acoustic guitarist (on this occasion) Ferran Fages. I reviewed the first album by the duo less than a year ago here. This new disc, entitled Corgroc is part of the spring series on Another Timbre, a set of discs that are tentatively linked to the guitar. There are two tracks on this one, the first lasting a fraction under eight minutes and the second five times as long at just under forty. The music in general does not stray too far from that on the first album, but perhaps there is a slightly more fragile feel to this release, a more simple structure. The first track, titled Spring begins with a stream of “finger nails scraped down a blackboard” sounds that I quite like but would annoy the hell out of most people. These are accompanied by a series of soft constant tones, presumably the result of an eBow placed against the strings of one or the other instrument. Gradually over a period of several minutes the grating sounds dissipate, and while the sinetones remain a series of more muted scrabbling and knocking remains until everything dies away and Fages’ forlorn sounding fingerpicked guitar appears for a few moments, closing the track with little fragments of half-forgotten melodies.

The second, much longer track, called curiously, is like a perhaps hand begins slowly, with more persistent tones hanging in the air, punctuated by smaller sounds from one of the other musician. It really is hard to tell where the sinetones come from as we also seem to hear both plucked zither and guitar while they remain. Things develop very slowly, always remaining very simple, using the technique of placing shorter sounds against the elongated tones as a basic rule. Often things break down to leave just the tone on its own, remaining constant for long periods until the eBow is shifted, or maybe another is added. It is not until nigh on twenty minutes into the piece that the sinetones cease and the mall clicks and plinks at strings mix with the occasional harsh scrape through a section that sounds even more sparse than it really is following soon after the dense high pitched sounds that had preceded it. There is a real tension in this part of the album, an awkward feeling of non-musical interaction as the little sounds seem to bounce about without any real connection. Slowly the guitar reappears, and we hear small three or four note particles of Fages’ playing here and there, though by the half-hour mark the music seems to fall apart again in a really strange, uncomfortable manner, leaving a minute or so of complete silence until some bowed strings slowly rise up and the music starts again. Gradually things build into a thick passage of heaving bowed zither with the guitar once again staying in small sounds territory, as if not listening to Chatzigoga’s grinding attacks. throughout the entire CD there is this feeling of the two musicians keeping away from matching each other’s approach, so we always get to hear two different sets of sounds juxtaposed against each other rather than the musicians trying to merge their inputs together. The track then really begins to become more active than the rest of the album put together in the last ten minutes as a piercing, slightly oscillating tone arrives, and all kinds of scurrying, crashing and tinkling sits alongside it, gaining in intensity before collapsing in on itself to leave just the quietest of semi rhythmic scrapes sat in the distant reaches of the recording.

Corgroc is an intriguing, occasionally quite perplexing album. While most of the sounds used are very familiar to those that follow this area of music the way they are placed alongside each other, and the way they tend to sit in opposition to each other rather than blend into one is all a little uncomfortable, but in a healthy way. On the one hand this sounds like an album we have heard many times before, but on the other nothing quite works as we think it should, and the music has a certain fragility to it as a result, a feeling that it can all fall apart at any moment, as it repeatedly does. Curious and inventive music then, one to listen to for what it is rather than what we think it should be. If that makes sense…

Comments (3)

  • Jesse

    May 29, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Richard, you remark
    “The second, much longer track, called curiously, is like a perhaps hand…”

    The entire poem is

    Spring is like a perhaps hand
    (which comes carefully
    out of Nowhere)arranging
    a window,into which people look(while
    people stare
    arranging and changing placing
    carefully there a strange
    thing and a known thing here)and

    changing everything carefully

    spring is like a perhaps
    Hand in a window
    (carefully to
    and from moving New and
    Old things,while
    people stare carefully
    moving a perhaps
    fraction of flower here placing
    an inch of air there)and

    without breaking anything.

    e.e.cummings

  • simon reynell

    May 29, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Good review, Richard, thanks.
    For obvious reaosn I won’t say much, but I’m glad you picked up on the sense of unbalanced-ness in the music. That’s one of things I really about it – and which does, I think, distinguish it quite markedly from their first album, though I also liked that. As well as what the two musicians are doing often feeling out of kilter, both pieces also feel structurally unbalanced, and for me this makes it an unusual and deceptively radical listen.

  • Richard Pinnell

    May 29, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks Jesse for the pointer. Just as I was putting the CD away this afternoon I noticed that the quote is actually credited on the sleeve, in tiny type behind the disc…

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