CD Reviews

Manuel Mota – Rck

April 13, 2013

5CD Box

The inevitable thing when writing about Manuel Mota’s work is that the usual list of comparisons is pulled out. So, Derek Bailey, Taku Sugimoto, Loren Connors, Tetuzi Akiyama, John Fahey etc… That’s those out of the way first. The thing is, these comparisons are inevitable because of how clear the lineage is here. Mota improvises, plays generally quite quietly and intimately, and plays the guitar, nothing else. So yes, all of those comparisons are valid, though for me it is the first of them, Derek Bailey that stands out the clearest. The link to Bailey however feels closer to the spirit of exploration and freedom I hear in Mota’s music, even if aesthetically it is early Akiyama and particularly Opposite period Sugimoto that initially spring to mind.

This release is a real labour of love. Five (yes, five!) CDrs are enclosed in a white card box adorned with a suitably minimal illustration hand-drawn directly onto the package by Mota himself. Beautifully illustrated slips of paper slid into the box offer us a short, tenderly poetic eulogy from Akiyama and then the barest of information on each disc, but actually I don’t know what else there really would have been to add. Mota’s music probably needs to be listened to and absorbed rather than written about.

So that said, this isn’t easy music to describe with anything other than dull comparisons and links to past genres that don’t come close to encompassing what Mota achieves. The five discs each contain solo recordings, some of them in live settings, some studio (or rather at home) recordings. There is a lot of material, all of it sitting in a similar area, which fortunately is a great pleasure to listen to. He works with little fragments of half-melody, little sections of chiming notes that both work as little enclosed bubbles of activity and as parts of the whole, usually separated by short silences. Its enchanting stuff, and there is rarely a weak moment across more than five hours of music. There are slight stylistic changes from disc to disc, but as everything was recorded in 2011 and 2012, the differences are less in the form of the music and more to do with the different techniques used. There is one disc of acoustic material (which I personally prefer) but the electric guitar pieces occasionally allow wah wah pedals and the like into the equation. Overall though, the feel of the music is all relatively uniform, but its extremely easy and inviting to listen to.  Mota has been playing for more than two decades, mostly under the radar of CD releases or wider discussion. His playing is inevitably indebted to the musicians noted above, and his past in more distinctly blues oriented music plays a part as well. What comes across to me across the five discs here though is the personality that forces its way through the mists created by the quietness, the lack of liner notes, the restraint in the playing. I feel and hear a musician living every note at a very personal level. It feels as if each little cluster of notes just flows from the one previous to it, and so the tracks each feel like unbroken narratives rather than carefully composed “pieces”. Here is where the spirit of Bailey shines through for me. While the music sits in a very clear aesthetic area, one feels that Mota concerns himself less with the surface of his work than he does its shape and form.

Do we need all five discs? Probably not. I think the same impact could have come from two, one each of the acoustic and electric material, but hey I’m not complaining. While I don’t think I could listen to all five discs in one long sitting, spending time with Mota’s work here, between more abstract music has been thoroughly enjoyable over the past month or so. It somehow has a cleansing, pure impact that wipes the slate clean and setting you up to listen to something else again. While other releases get played a few times and then head off to a shelf they won’t come back down from in a while, I suspect I may keep Rck to hand to drop into the right moments over coming weeks. Beautiful work from an underrated musician.

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