CD Reviews

Atolón – Concret

April 11, 2013


The trio of Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Ferran Fages and Ruth Barberán have been making music as a trio on and off for more than a decade now. This is (I think) their fourth album together as a trio, but they have appeared together in quite a few other group formations along the way as well. This new recording was made early in 2011 by Simon Reynell in Barcelona. A further release featuring the Atolón trio alongside the Irish/Swedish quartet ChipShop Music has also just appeared on Reynell’s Another Timbre label. Costa Monteiro and Fages also work together a great deal under their Cremaster moniker, and recent work thy have been involved with has leant more often towards the electronic side of their canon, so in many ways its really nice to reacquaint ourselves with their acoustic playing, as Concret sees Costa Monteiro, Fages and Barberán put to use accordion, acoustic turntable and trumpet to use respectively.

Where Concret really hits the spot for me is through the way the trio work so seamlessly well together. There is in essence, nothing particularly innovative or unusual about the music here. The way the three combine their serrated edges and pockmarked textures is fantastic to wallow in, but it was this way a decade ago also. There is nothing here that is a surprise, no conceptual leaps forward, but like the way that opening a bottle of Chablis from a new vintage brings you familiar flavours and experiences, but with a new depth, so hearing Concret works in a similar way. We know roughly what to expect, but the intensity of the experience grows as the group build on their intimate internal musical relationships. These are three musicians that know each other very well indeed, and know how to push and pull at one another to create vibrant, intimately fascinating music. Let it just drift past your ears and its reasonably pleasing. Delve into it, savour each moment, untangle every knot of combined sounds, and like all well made improvised music its a joy to follow.

So the “acoustic turntable” sees Fages let metallic and other objects rub against a spinning surface. Costa Monteiro’s accordion wheezes and wails but never quite sounds a firm note. Barberán’s trumpet switches from gaseous clouds to brittle vibrations, again without ever sounding much like a trumpet, but the individual voices in here don’t seem to matter, the group come together and work as one seething, constantly morphing mass of twisted musical detritus. There are some nice surprises. the twenty minute mark sees the trio burst into an electrifying wall of vibrant textures- something held firmly and loudly against the spinning turntable, the trumpet wrenching metallic blasts, the accordion laying a heaving wall of wasp-like buzzes behind. Again though its the uniform way that the group come together here that is really inspiring. As if on a signal all three switch direction seamlessly into this fiery assault. Its not a case of one of the trio changing direction and the others following, it all just shifts gear at once. There then, in that section lies the pleasure I find in this disc. Knowing the musicians, knowing their relationships together, then hearing them find musical ways to project those relationships onwards through art is a wonderful thing to follow, a joy to be a part of as a listener. As I write tonight I have a stinking cold, a headache and partly blocked hearing, and yet playing this disc through a few times was still a pleasure.

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