CD Reviews

Monday 28th November

November 29, 2011

Rubbish day at work, and so inevitably tired tonight, but I have been listening a lot to a few album cover recent days, so reviewing tonight has been just about solidifying those thoughts. Tonight a few words about a release on the Florida based Ilse label. As I had been listening to this release, a disc descriptively named Piano +no input mixer by the Argentinian duo of Ana Foutel (the piano) and Federico Barabino (the mixer) I heard that the Ilse label will now cease operating as a physical releases label and move to a downloads only model. This is has been prompted by the financial improbabilities of running a small label in this day and age, but it will be interesting to see how Ilse fairs in its new format. I am very conscious that I do not give enough space to download releases in these pages, primarily because, well, digital files don’t get in the way like the pile of CDs on the end of my desk do, and they get forgotten far too easily. I need to find a solution to this issue, but I think as more good labels like Ilse move towards digital releases it will become much harder for me to overlook them. Certainly I hope to write about music on Ilse in the future and will try and pay attention to the likes of Compost and Height, Homophoni and others with greater urgency.

Anyway, to this CD with Foutel and Barabino. To the best of my knowledge, until somebody points me towards something to the contrary at least, I have not heard any music by these musicians before this CD. As it is though, this is a good CD by two more Argentinian musicians, following in a tradition that has seen a number of excellent improvisers emerging front he country. There are two tracks, simply named Impro I and Impro II, and the music has a simplicity about it to match. The pieces vary from time to time between a quite sparse, virtually empty aridness to sections of rhythmic pulsing and even some softly melodic passages. The piano varies between “normally” played parts and inside piano abstractions, mostly of the tonal, bowed or rubbed variety, while the mixer feedback is on the whole kept to sinewy, minimal tones, piercing shrieks and some low hums. The disc starts out with some expressive, almost angry attacks at the piano keys, little spiky bursts with the pedals pushed down, so leaving a trail of decaying sound behind. Soon though this all dissipates and a somewhat acetic territory emerges, initially near silence, just the hum of room tone and distant traffic near the Buenos Aries home in which it was recorded, but then thin slithers of shimmering feedback arrive,  and just sit for quite some time. gradually soft swathes of inside piano bowing emerge and the track blossoms outwards into a warm, swaying drift of tone. It later then goes off elsewhere, through deep percussive strikes at the piano’s frame to odd rapidly drilling passages of deadened keystrokes. This is kind of how the album then goes on- Foutel seems to go wherever she chooses, from little snippets of tune to crashing hits to washes of vibrating strings. Barabino’s input often seems to disappear altogether, leaving Foutel to play alone, or when it does arrive it sits far further back than the piano’s presence, often getting mistaken, by me at least for the resonance of the piano.

Each of the two tracks here are very hard to pin down. The overall sensation is one of slowness, spaciousness and a mix of tonal and textural elements, but stylistically this is a mysterious release, which is very much to its credit. I suspect that, if I could have been present at the recording it would make a lot more sense to me, and I am repeatedly left wondering how much is happening in the silences here that I don’t know, or I wonder what Barabino may be doing during his apparent long absences. Despite the dominance of the piano, it also wouldn’t be fair to describe this music as piano with accompaniment either, as when the mixing board is there to be heard, it often does play a crucial part and seems to have a direct impact on the piano playing. It just seems to disappear often. Overall then, this is a fascinating proposition of a CD. It is as likely to annoy a person in one place as it will then delight them in others. The combination of the instruments here is a relatively unusual one in itself, but the way the piano shifts about all over the place and the mixer seems to suddenly appear after long AWOL patches makes for a particularly difficult to grasp, and therefore often quite uncomfortable recording. I found it hard to relax listening here, difficult to slip into a particular mode of listening. All of this then is a big positive point for the CD and I found the experience of spending time with it as rewarding as it was perplexing. A fine release, buy it here.

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