Sunday 3rd OctoberOctober 3, 2010
Well I’m writing this at a little before 11PM, and in five hours I’ll be setting off for the airport again, alas not to go anywhere myself, but just to pack my parents off someplace dull again. I’ve had a great day listening to music, mostly demos though of varying interest, some lovely music in there. Tonight I have picked a CD off of the To Listen To pile and played it back to back three times over, which was a little hard to do, not because I particularly dislike the music, its not that bad at all, but because its quite a harsh, difficult listen.
The disc in question is Utpote , the third full length release by the Portugese guitarist Pedro Chambel, this one released on his own Fractal Sources label following two earlier releases on Creative Sources. When Pedro sent me this new disc he also included the earlier CS releases, which alas I have not yet been able to listen to, so please excuse the lack of any comparison to his earlier work. Utpote (a latin word apparently meaning roughly “in as much”) consists of one thirty-eight minute track for electric guitar, objects and electronics. From the outset the piece hits us with a strong continual sine tone, maybe created from placing an eBow on a string, maybe created using some other form of electronics. The tone is quite high pitched, similar to that used for so long by Sachiko M on her solo releases, but perhaps thicker and slightly warmer. Besides a slow fade at the end, the tone then remains present right the way through the album, without really wavering, and if there is any adjustment on volume or intensity it happens so gradually that you don’t notice it. So, not unlike Sachiko’s solo music, this is a tough listen.
Alongside this tone we hear a series of what I can only really describe as ‘small sounds’, little pops and crackles and scratches as Chambel does something, or a range of things, to the strings and pick-ups. These sounds are unmistakenly guitary, and yes not that dissimilar to the more recent, minimal work of Keith Rowe, but Chambel has his own voice here that is centred firmly around the basic concept of offsetting the heavy, insistent sine tone with smaller, almost incidental sounds. There is also (I think) a soft, gentle whisper of a continual sound later int he disc as well that sits alongside the sine tone, but then its also possible that this isn’t really there and is just the result of my ears playing tricks on me after listening to the piercing tone for so long. I didn’t hear this additional sound at all on the first couple of runs through the CD, only picking it up on the third, so maybe it is just my head processing one sound and outputting two…
That then, is essentially it. There is little more to describe about how the CD sounds. It is a piece of music that might only really appeal to a small section of listeners, the kind that are quite happy to be pushed into uncomfortable areas. Te question then is how much there is to take from the music. What is missing is any sense of sensuality. The music is quite harsh and cold, an unforgiving stream of similar sounds that beg to be considered on a purely structural level rather than from any emotional perspective. Its a piece of music that would probably inspire me when I am working on something else, designing a website or something, music that places me in a firmly disciplined, sat bolt upright in my chair mood, if that makes any sense at all (I realise it doesn’t…). Listening closely here, trying to follow the music’s progression or link sounds together may be a fruitless, and a little uncomfortable exercise. Allowing it to fill the room and place you in a certain frame of mind is a more useful strategy. However you choose to listen, this is confident and highly focussed work from a musician that has something very clear and precise to communicate. Maybe one to watch out for.