Now this is an interesting album. Or double album actually, which is the main reason its taken me so long to get around to it- multi-disc releases take up more of my time than I usually have each day. Still, being on holiday this week I aim to catch up on one or two. Today’s album is a release on the Creative Sources label by the trio of Pedro Rebelo, (piano and “instrumental parasites”) Franziska Schoeder (saxophones) and Steve Davis (drums) named Faint. Although the musicians are German, Portugese and Northern Irish respectively, the trio are all connected to the Sonic Arts Research Centre, a part of Queen’s University in Belfast. The album then, consists of a total of thirty-two tracks. Thirteen of them are trio acoustic improvisations that veer between full-on, near t0 free-jazz sessions and slower, more texturally focussed works. The other nineteen tracks however are (mostly) brief little electroacoustic pieces by Rebelo, created using the trio improvisations exclusively as source material.
So we are taken all over the place across these two discs. The acoustic improvisation and the digital rewordings go them are spaced roughly evenly, so while some of the improv tracks last five minutes or so each, we are never really left in any one scenario for longer than this. So there are some rough and tumble skronky improv workouts, some soft, textural, tonal pieces and even a final smokey club crooner to end the album, but between these pieces the electroacoustic works throw us all over the place, from skittering drum’n bass resemblances to works of a kind of John Wall / electronic Lachenmann structure, to brief little Fennesz-esque flurries of colour. If the more full-on improvisations are all a bit too busy and jazzy for my tastes then the electroacoustic pieces somehow take the same energies, the same use of pace and quick changes but filter them through some kind of Max/MSP or similar system to stretch out some sounds, jam others together and twist the material into all kinds of shapes it didn’t already take. The thing is, on paper, this disc really shouldn’t work. If you asked me beforehand how you can jam all of these different influences, sounds and techniques together onto one (OK, two) CDs and produce something coherent, I’d say it probably couldn’t be done, but somehow it all works rather well here. Perhaps the way that each of Rebelo’s rewordings takes its sounds from the other pieces surrounding it links it all together, but while the digital tracks are all really quite different from their source material, it all flows together very well, and as the gaps between tracks are very short, quite often I found myself wondering which of the types of track was I actually listening to.
I’ll be honest, I set off listening to this album with a fair amount of trepidation. If I hadn’t known that the project was linked to a University research department in advance I’d probably had guessed as much from the description of the music alone, and as I generally speaking struggle with music that emanates from this kind of project I feared the worst, but you know what, I really rather enjoyed listening to Faint. It may not be full of pieces of music that attract me individually, and I suspect that, the Wall-esque tracks excepted I wouldn’t want much of what is here to be stretched out to a full album, but somehow when its all brought together, and we are taken on this journey through different improv styles and their digital hall of mirrors it all works. While musically it doesn’t come close, I was actually reminded of Bitches Brew here and there, primarily through the way the technology impacts on a jazz(ish) base over a long passage of time. Some parts impressed me more than others, and I think that will be the case for whoever listens here, but overall this is an interesting work that managed to keep me gripped across all thirty-two tracks. Good going.