Thursday 5th MayMay 6, 2011
Another very long and tiring day that began in the early hours and will end almost twenty four hours later. Never mind Richard, stop moaning. I have been listening to some music today anyway, an album that I have been spinning on and off for a few days, a new release on the reliably superb L’innomable label based in Slovenia. The disc is titled Mimesis Intemperie and is credited to No Hermanos Carrasco, who are the duo of EdÃ©n and Nicolas Carrasco, two musicians from Santiago, that initially I had assumed were brothers until I thought about the translation of their group name, which (I think) means something like “Not Brothers Carrasco”. Anyway, irrespective of any family ties or not, Its a great indication of the global nature of improvised music today that I can sit in the UK and listen to an album by two Chilean musicians released on a Slovenian label. Its also a really nice disc.
EdÃ©n Carrasco is credited with ‘sax, hoses, bell, idea and production’ while Nicolas is listed with ‘violin, objects, production and mix’. The music consists of three tracks, the first and last containing sound, the middle track being silent, lasting two minutes in length. What makes this disc so attractive then is where and how it has been recorded. Both of the long pieces seem to have been recorded outside at site specific locations that involve a lot of environmental and incidental noise. The first of these, lasting twenty-seven minutes seems to have been recorded alongside an area where a lot of children are playing very excitedly. Throughout the piece the loudest element is consistently the sound of children screaming and shouting at each other. I suspect the duo set up and played near a large school during playtime hours, though the sleeve image of a rollercoaster makes me wonder about a theme park of some kind. Either way I am pretty sure that what we hear is the duo playing naturally in this environment rather than the sounds being added tot he mix later as post production. The playing then, on the whole is very quiet, understated, and often absorbed into the screaming and shouting of the music’s backdrop.
So we find ourselves basically listening to a recording of a lot of children screaming loudly, and we try then to pick out instrumental sounds scattered around this recording. Listening closely and carefully for a long time to this music becomes quite a strange experience after a while. I found myself beginning to question the sounds of the children after a while. Should they really be screaming that loudly? that wildly? Are they really enjoying themselves? The central point of the recording really is the children, and the instrumental sounds, which are kept down to gentle purrs, tiny scrapes and bowed sounds and the occasional tonal burst are secondary, clearly deliberately so, and thus its the children we focus on and begin to hear their shouts and screams in detail, and so start to apply all kind of allusions to this sound.
The playing though, when we are able to focus on it, and as the track nears its end this becomes easier as the musicians make a slightly bolder mark, is really rather nice, completely devoid of ego or muso pyrotechnics, quite the opposite in fact as the aim seems to have been to submerge the acoustic sounds in the wider range of sounds. Second guessing the nature of the screams aside, this is a great piece to listen to, not much like anything I’ve heard before. The sounds of children playing are very common in musique concrete circles of course, but they are rare in improv. One album, Davies, Lacey and McNulty’s Poor Trade on Cathnor involves the distant sound of children at play, though you have to listen very carefully to hear it. This disc feels like an inversion of that scenario, with the sax and violin instead being the harder elements to follow.
The cleaning qualities of the silent track follow, and then the sound of some kind of natural area appears with a bang. If it wasn’t for the occasional appearance of vehicles, including one emergency vehicle with sirens ablaze, I would have thought that maybe the piece had been recorded in some remote forested area, but as it is the sound of birdcall and the wind in trees still dominate above any human activity. The same pattern then follows with the Carrascos laying quiet sounds below the main thrust of the recording, though as the chatter of birds that make up most of what we hear is generally quieter than the din from the children’s playground the instrumental elements have to be played even quieter still. This track has a lot of space in it, and is a great listen, though having listened at length to the children its amazing how similar the character and placement of the bird calls are to the kids in the first recording.
Again the playing is quiet, soft, and mostly textural, on the whole very pleasing to these ears. I suspect I would have enjoyed the duo’s music had it even been recorded in a soundproofed studio somewhere, but its the way it is blended into the environmental sounds, the way the musicians seem to be interacting with the surrounding environment’s sounds that really makes this music for me. Mimesis Intemperie (Mimesis of bad weather?!) is a fine recording of two musicians I was previously unaware of, but its not just their instrumental abilities and impact that work for me here, but the concept behind the album and its resulting successful realisation is cleaver and very nicely executed. Good stuff then, one not to overlook.