Sunday 1st AugustAugust 1, 2010
Cripes, where did August come from? Today was good, a very productive day on many fronts, complete with a varied soundtrack that veered from Shostakovich to Mattin via field recordings I made of sheep in Wales. One CD has been on constant rotation here for a few days now though, the debut disc by Mohammad- no not that one, the Greek trio of Coti K, Ilios and Nikos Veliotis. The album, titled Roto Vildblomma has been out for a few weeks on the Antifrost label.
Now, so much about this project seems shrouded in a degree of mystery and/or misdirection. Online, it all seems very simple- the group have a website that lists the three musicians and their instrumentation, with Coti K credited with contrabass, Ilios with oscillators and Veliotis the cello. However on the CD sleeve itself, not even the group members’ names are listed, let alone any instrumentation, and if there isn’t a saxophone playing on the final track then I’ll eat my hat.
Now, given my previous experiences with these three excellent musicians I expected this music to be all about rich drones, and well, about two thirds of it is, but there is more here besides. Mohammad state that they got together to make music that follows the principles of intermodulation, but also to study the ideas ofÂ kullu wahad, which appears to be an arabic concept referring to being “all one”. Apparently there is also a Greek informal use of the term as well, that suggests something of a messy state. How genuinely important these concepts may have been to the group, and how much of all of this is tongue in cheek is hard to tell, though certainly the idea of “all-one” could easily be applied to this music. It displays a remarkable degree of cohesiveness across the three musicians.
The opening Vildblomma is a big, bold, and intriguing affair. The cello and bass combine to repeat a four note figure over and over, with each of the musicians adjusting their playing to feed harmonic shifts throughout the opening, which is thoroughly beautiful in a kind of heavy, mournful way. The music feels religious to some degree, weighty in its intentions, like the opening to a huge atmospheric opera. After three minutes of this the oscillators join in, and a sense of a drone appears, for the final ninety seconds of the track, rich, thick and full of layered textures. While sounding exactly like the musicians involved, this track sounds like nothing much else I’ve heard before and is a really powerful, rousing four and a half minutes of music that sounds incredible turned up loud.
The opening of the second piece, titled Skora is utterly gorgeous. The two string instruments hold a very soft, low note, perfectly in tune with one another as the oscillator drags a kind of quiet, scorched texture over the top, all very muted and restrained, and yet absolutely teeming with tiny detail and interplay between the sounds. In time with one another the strings drop an octave (I think) on a couple of occasions, giving the music a feeling of slight queasiness and uncertainty. This piece is just breathtakingly beautiful in such a simple manner, the way the strings and electronic sounds merge is testament to the skills of the musicians here, but it works on a very basic harmonic level, perfectly in tune to each other. All-one indeed.
For the third track, Lamone Kradoj (I have no doubt that these titles have significant meaning, but I can’t trace what it might be) the soft drones continue, with the oscillator pulsing rapidly over the gentlest of thin notes, gradually beginning to take a firmer hold until simmering like a lorry engine in neutral gear, the strings wonderfully restrained, staying way down in the mix, often appearing to drop away entirely. The track almost segues straight into Letzten Tranen, another hushed affair, but here as the electronics burble and grind gently on top again, so some kind of dry rhythm comes from the strings, or perhaps rather from the body of the two instruments. As the oscillations slow to a steady, relentless but slow throb so a series of deep, glowing pulses rise from the background and the harmonics begin to intertwine again, this time in low bassy territory that makes the metal lamp on my writing desk rattle if played at high volume.
Then, as the music seems to have slipped into this beautifully pitched state of carefully and very accurately constructed pulses and drones, so the final track, the five minute long Luminus Vuori appears. It opens with wonderfully deep, very cloudy strings, the bass and cello almost suggesting Scelsi to me for a brief moment until they die to a second’s silence before kicking right back in behind a bouncy, deep sax solo. The strings here are played in a chiming, percussive manner, and this coupled by the repeated sax refrain suggest some kind of slow march, like a vaguely humorous funeral procession if that’s possible. The sax doesn’t sound like its being played by someone used to the instrument, so maybe one of the group (Ilios?) picked it up, but whoever is playing they seem to hold the simple tune well enough to add little embelishments here and there as the strings march steadily and unswervingly behind. This is such an odd, unexpected track. it is as carefully executed as the previous pieces but of a completely different character, and yet, somehow, and don’t ask me how, it works.
So this CD leaves me a little perplexed, and yet it has also really affected me over the last few days. From the unusual, slightly provocative group name, to the mysterious album sleeve to the offsetting of some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard in a while against the strange little tunes that bookend the album, Rota Vildblomma is a release that refuses to play to type and so leaves this listener intrigued and wanting more. I’ve not seen this one reviewed or even mentioned much anywhere else, do yourself a favour and take a listen.
Anyone else notice that I have written seven lengthy reviews in seven days without ducking out of a day at all? First time I’ve done that in a long time and a sign that going away with Julie and not really listening to anything recharged the batteries. Writing over the last week has been thoroughly enjoyable. Hope that came across to any silly person that has read every day’s efforts. 😉