Ferran Fages, Ernesto Rodrigues – CruDecember 12, 2014
Now this is a curious one, likely to be overlooked and possibly misunderstood if not paid proper attention to. Cru is another release involving Ernesto Rodrigues on his incredibly prolific Creative Sources label, one of five to include the violist in the most recent batch alone. I have yet to listen to them all but the inclusion of Ferran Fages’ electronics on this duo disc helped Cru to the top of the listening pile, and I am very pleased it did so.
At first this release sounds like a particularly lovely recording of the two musicians performing outdoors, in an urban setting, playing quietly and sparsely, allowing their sounds to blend into the independently occurring environment around them. For the first couple of listens I assumed that that was what I was hearing, and spent time trying to picture the precise surroundings the musicians set themselves amongst as vehicles of various sizes (and I think more than one train) seem to pass by at differing distances. Although the environmental sounds really take the foreground here I was troubled by the way that it was difficult to fix a definite image in my head that encompassed everything to be heard. Exploring the minimal sleeve notes before a third listen then revealed that although we are only presented with the one track here, it was recorded both in Fages’ home city of Barcelona in 2013, and Rodrigues’ home of Lisbon the following year. Clearly then what we hear is some kind of splicing together of two recordings.
In late November I saw Ferran briefly and he confirmed to me that (for this release at least) he had not met up with Rodrigues. So rather than being two duo recordings in two cities spliced together, clearly Cru is made up of two solo recordings overlaid on one another. What I didn’t have time to ask Ferran are any more details beyond this, but that’s where the fun lies anyway, relying on your ears to figure things out. How did this recording come about? Did one of the two musicians record themselves outside, and the second then played into and over the result? Were both musicians outside? We know that one recording was made months before the other, but did the second musician respond directly to the first recording, or did they merely make a similar recording of the same length so the two could be juxtaposed?
Its hard to pin down answers to these questions. Certainly, listening closely, it does feel like one of the musicians is responding to the other. There are long silences, or rather, environmental interludes when the musicians make no sound, only for both musicians to start playing together in roughly the same time brackets. This suggests that one of the pair played along with the first recording. If this did happen then I will guess that Rodrigues took the secondary role as the way the electronics seem to take the lead more often than not. Were they both outside? Were any of the musicians outside? Perhaps both musicians played into a separate field recording. The options are endless and no amount of close listening really reveals anything that gives the game completely away.
What we do know is that the end result is a quite beautiful, if vaguely distant and hard to connect to recording. The sounds both musicians make are subtle, often very quiet, often hiding amongst the grey hum of traffic, the blur of the city. Ages’ electronics are of the elemental, feedback end of things, gentle whistles, tightly controlled screeches. Rodrigues’ viola sounds aren’t a million miles away, again suggesting he played along to Fages’ lead, focussing on brief high pitched tones and textural scrapes. Its all very tentative however, and fragile in form, as the instrumental sounds often slip away from earshot into the background detritus, or pitch themselves so close that it shard to tell them apart in the first place. Cru is a very delicate, beautiful and yet resolutely mysterious work. The long silences give the music a feeling of fracture, of decentred imbalance, as the recording environment seems to take precedence over the musicians’ contributions, a feeling of distance and thinking too hard about how it is all put together only makes it all feel stranger still. Its a fascinating and rewarding listen though, and one I recommend you don’t let slip past unnoticed.