fower |cs161








































Neil Davidson has taken his acoustic guitar on many fascinating sonic adventures, forever pushing the language of sounds possible with this instrument to new places. Here he joins a group of musicians from Portugal led by the rather legendary Ernesto Rodrigues on viola and also featuring his son Guilherme Rodrigues on 'cello and Hernani Faustino on double bass. Here the four - sorry, Fower - play with hushed minimal intensity, leading to some passages which let loose with freedom and passion, a range which makes this album an absorbing journey. JC (MelodyBar)

Looking back over recent posts this morning it occurred to me that it has been a good while since I wrote about any acoustic improv, and even longer since I took a Creative Sources disc from the pile to play. Tonight then I have been listening to Fower, the latest release on Creative Sources by the quartet of Neil Davidson, (acoustic guitar) Ernesto and Guilherme Rodrigues (viola and cello respectively) and Hernani Faustino (double bass). The first three names in this version on a string quartet are all favurites of these pages, the last completely new to me.
Split into three tracks, Fower is a bit of a bumpy ride, not exactly easy listening. All of the musicians seem to grind and scrape at their instruments rather than stroke and caress them. The instruments sound as if they have been recorded up close and so everything sits in the foreground of the recording, the four musicians nudging and shoving each other’s sounds around in the search for space, the music formed from this interactive game. The first piece on Fower, named Heuch, and lasting some twenty-two minutes is a gritty, dry affair with a serrated edge. While it is always clear that we are listening to four wooden boxes with strings stretched across them, it is quite difficult to pin down sounds to particular musicians. There is little silence, and what we hear is a constantly changing series of tight musical forms made up of the musicians’ muscular, jagged inputs. While it isn’t particularly loud (its certainly not quiet either) and the sounds are maybe not as harsh as can be heard elsewhere, there is a certain aridity to the music. Like a photoshopped picture with the contrast turned right up very sound is firmly stated, and the music feels like it is has been scratched directly into the surface of the CD, such is the immediacy of the music. Mostly the instruments seem to be played with bows, but they do not all sound traditionally tuned, and their body seems to be played as often as the strings, the closely miked recording amplifying the slightest scratch and scrape into something bigger. While the four musicians are very much in tune with one another, and they merge together easily into the one writhing mass of dry sound it is hard to pick out particular voices in the music, with perhaps only Davidson’s guitar easy to identify in places.
The second track named Haugh clocks in at half the length of the first, and at just over five minutes the final Hume is half as long again. This last piece is perhaps the quietest of the trio, still utilising similar sounds but with a little more air in the music and a more delicate sense of structure. While the first two tracks barge their way out of the speaker and roll about the floor fighting, Hume sounds like a more considered affair, still full of twists and turns, but with a more composed feel. Overall Fower is a tough listen, something that needs to be engaged with fully as a listener to take anything from it. Closing your eyes and really getting to grips with the music, almost literally wrestling with its sinewy vigour reaps rewards however. The interplay between the quartet is excellent, and only under close scrutiny is this completely apparent, as picking apart Fower’s vibrating, grinding structures reveals how well these four musicians are listening to, and anticipating each other’s moves. Fower takes some work, but spend time with it and it pays you back with interest. This isn’t an album that will appear in anyone’s end of year lists, and won’t get many mentions in the hip and trendy corners of the internet, but its one that fans of good, robust and detailed improvised music should pay attention to. Richard Pinnell (The Watchful Ear)

Com a diferença de que uma guitarra (tocada por Neil Davidson) está no lugar do violino, é um quarteto de cordas que encontramos neste CD, mas raramente o reconhecemos enquanto tal, pelo menos face ao modelo erudito secularmente instalado. Em raras passagens, também, conseguimos identificar os instrumentos "em cena": estes são utilizados de formas inconvencionais e na sua totalidade, ouvindo-se tanto a manipulação das cordas como das madeiras circundantes. As improvisações estão em permanente tensão, e mesmo os alívios são dramáticos, sendo este um dos mais interessantes discos protagonizados por Ernesto Rodrigues (viola) nos últimos anos. Participam ainda o seu filho Guilherme (violoncelo) e Hernâni Faustino (contrabaixo). Rui Eduardo Paes (

Viola, acoustic guitar, cello and bass, not leagues apart from the prior release but, perhaps due to the absence of someone like Küchen, lacking some of the intensity. They do get there, on tracks like "haugh", but it's an intensity arrived at more through hyperactivity than fundamental being. "Fower" is perfectly fine, a decent improv recording, but not essential. Brian Olewnick (Just Outside)

A session recorded in November 2007 and featuring the Rodrigues father-and-son team, Neil Davidson on acoustic guitar, and bassist Hernani Faustino (of the Red Trio). Fower offers three stunning, extremely textural pieces. I don’t think I’ve heard a single note attack. It’s all rubbing, grinding and emphasized stroking, gritty textures, the raw feel of raw materials rubbing one against another. Yet, the artistic intent is there, unfolding, orchestrating the unorchestrable. Disconcerting, fascinating ghostly music. Bravo.François Couture (Monsieur Délire)

Fower é mais uma empreitada do duo Rodrigues, desta vez pai e filho têm a companhia do escocês Neil Davidson (na guitarra acústica, colaborador da Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra e já editou um solo na CS) e Hernâni Faustino (membro do excelente RED Trio, no contrabaixo). Quatro cordofones distintos, quatro exploradores servindo-se de instrumentos preparados. O quarteto desenvolve um som coeso, maturado, onde a aparente leveza não é mais do que incrível precisão. Ao longo de três faixas o quarteto Rodrigues²/Davidson/Faustino embrulha o som das cordas friccionadas, dedilhadas e criativamente exploradas numa massa comum, onde os elementos individuais são raros (só na última faixa, “Hume”, é possível distinguir o som de cada instrumento com mais detalhe – mas esta termina abruptamente nos seus curtos 5 minutos). Distinto de boa parte do catálogo CS, este disco é marcado pela união sonora, pela partilha, pela decisão bem conseguida de quatro músicos que optaram caminhar numa única direcção. Nuno Catarino (Bodyspace)

Just as the leafless tree adorning the CD’s cover, the sonic picture expressed by this quartet (viola, acoustic guitar, cello and double bass are the respective instruments) is devoid of frondescence and embellishments. It ultimately comes off as a rather unfriendly landscape, but also presents sudden openings where genuine, if undernourished pitches make themselves heard in between quagmires and puddles of concrete grunting and groaning symptoms that, in turn, give the idea of a disembodiment. The tenaciousness shown by the musicians in keeping things under pressure, avoiding easy concessions to “beauty” (as commonly intended) is admirable, despite the fact that this is the exact reason for which the casual listener could run away from such a release at Usain Bolt-like speed. Let’s be honest, though: is Creative Sources a label for that kind of consumer? It is not even completely accepted as an independent voice in certain snobbish circles, so you know that when there’s no silence involved, when the players are willing to experiment with alternative solutions (which, quite often, imply the generation of sounds that are nearer to those coming from a wood-crafting artisan’s room than to something connected to Zen-ish mannerism) then it’s a “take it or leave it” sort of issue. For my own taste this record is pretty fine, hiding a considerable degree of musicality amidst the roughness of its traits; many others might not agree, unable to filter out the non-harmonic-yet-still-interesting substances and the spontaneous designs elicited by the strings – arcoed, plucked or eBowed, it doesn’t matter – from what they perceive as sheer unattractive music. Their loss, of course. Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes)

This an all acoustic instruments cd based on a line up including an acoustic guitar, a cello, a viola and a double bass, being on Creative Sources and featuring both the Rodriguez guy it has "that" characteristic sound. Unsounded bowed and scratched instruments interacting softly, gently but also firmly as the concrete dogmas taught us all. Funny since even if there's no brushed drumming sometimes that's the effect you hear, above all during the first long track, that later develops into a played composition with more violent playing and soft quiet scary melodies. The second composition moves along the same lines but in a way has more interesting interactions, more instrumental dialogue and if you ask me the coral playing reaches more intensity. The last track is just five minutes long and brings in a more frontal guitar approach but at the same time reminds a lot the strong identity that's behind the other two compositions. Sometimes "fower" has some interesting solution but it's not so far from many other Creative Sources works really close to following a bit too blindly the "unwritten dogmas" of electro-acoustic improvising. Andrea Ferraris (Chain DLK)

Avant de passer aux albums plus récents parus sur Creative Sources, je finis cette rétrospective Ernesto Rodrigues avec un dernier quatuor datant de 2009. Quatuor presque traditionnel si ce n'est que le violon est ici remplacé par la guitare acoustique du britannique Neil Davidson. Mais hormis ce léger écart à la tradition, on retrouve toujours Ernesto à l'alto, son fils Guilherme au violoncelle, et Hernâni Faustino à la contrebasse. Parmi ces cinq productions d'Ernesto datant de 2006 à 2009, Fower est certainement ma préférée après le fantastique Drain, ce qui m'amène à conclure que l'exclusivité des instruments à cordes (car Drain était un trio pour cordes) est certainement ce qui réussi le mieux à cette musique si particulière.

On a ici trois pièces, mais c'est la première, "heuch", qui occupe plus de la moitié de la durée du disque. Durant cette improvisation, le premier principe du quatuor est comme toujours d'agencer des textures, et pour ce faire, les quatre musiciens n'hésitent pas à retourner leurs instruments et leurs techniques dans tous les sens. Des double-cordes sont frénétiquement répétées, les instruments sont percutées à même le corps boisé, ou sur le chevalet, le crin des archets est autant utilisé que le bois de ce dernier, les cordes de la guitare sont actionnés par un objet motorisé pour en faire un bourdon, les harmoniques crissent, les basses du bois et des registres extrêmes envoûtent par leur rondeur. Si la musique du quatuor ressemble le plus souvent à un drone homogène, elle n'en est pas moins vivante et mouvementée, différentes nappes se succèdent, des nappes bruitistes, des nappes faites d'harmoniques, des nappes rythmiques; les drones peuvent aussi bien être agressifs, minimalistes, rythmiques, calmes, etc. Même si la plupart de l'improvisation est jouée à l'archet et si le son collectif est plutôt homogène, il y a de nombreux reliefs, des aspérités incessantes, des "accidents" souvent heureux, tels les pizzicato énergiques qui concluent cette pièce. On est plus envoûté que lassé par cette musique qui accentue les timbres et les textures avant tout, mais n'est pas sans accorder une grande importance aux variations d'intensité et de puissance.

Les deux dernières pièces, "haugh" et "hume", ne s'éloignent pas de cette lignée entamée par "heuch". On entend toujours les cordes motorisées de Davidson, les archets sur la touche ou sur le chevalet, des staccatos effrénés et abrasifs. La seule différence provient surtout de la durée des pièces, le fait qu'elles soient beaucoup plus courtes accentuent les différences d'intensités et cette variable prend alors une importance plus consistante, voire essentielle. D'un instant à l'autre, on peut passer d'un léger bruit blanc très faible à un mur de bourdons exceptionnellement puissant et grinçant. Les transitions sont tout de même très maîtrisées, il n'y a pas de rupture entre les différentes phases, mais le contraste est tout de même plus flagrant du fait d'une importance plus négligée aux développements des différentes textures et des nappes successives.

Un disque exceptionnellement intense pour ce genre d'improvisation, Fower sait en effet manier les contrastes d'intensités, les différentes formes de tension et de puissance, ainsi que les relations entre ces éléments, mais aussi, et surtout, toute l'étendue sonore des instruments de ces cordes maîtrisées avec une virtuosité ahurissante. Trois improvisations pour quatuor à cordes, où chaque instrumentiste paraît avoir très bien intégré la gestion des tensions et des intensités mises en application dans la musique savante, la radicalité de l'improvisation libre européenne, la puissance du free jazz et la virtuosité du réductionnisme. Un album intense et éprouvant, puissant et contrasté, aventureux en somme, sans tomber dans le formalisme. Recommandé! hjulien (ImprovSphere)

Three tracks of acoustic improv from an understated string quartet that uses extended techniques and the whole of their instruments to make unusual and rewarding music. (Squidco)