Though Fages is credited with "electronics" on the sleeve, most of the non-viola sounds on this recording (those provided by Rodrigues) seem to be of the field recording variety, often of vehicles on a highway, though all enveloped in a dusty semi-hum. Through this, it's possible to perceive thin electronic strands, I think, but I'm never quite sure if they're there or even if they might not also stem from some particularly high viola strokes. Rodrigues is sometimes oddly playful here, plucking at the strings as if suggesting a gambol down the road, an itinerant musician strolling the highway's shoulder, wryly commenting on the passing traffic. There's not much more to it than that, a single 37-minute track that ambles leisurely, but the sound is full and interesting, drawing one in well enough if, at the end of the day, leaving one with only a hazy impression of what has just occurred. Sometimes that's all that's needed and it was often the case with me, but the music is amorphous enough that many more casual listeners may find little to grasp hold of. Brian Olewnick (Just Outside)
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. Richard Pinnell (The Watchful Ear)
[…] E ei-las a florescerem na parceria entre Ferran Fages e Ernesto Rodrigues, “Cru”. Com insistente uso de “field recordings” (“vemos” um dia de chuva, com comboios e automóveis a passar abrindo um rasgo de água), entramos em pleno domínio da “sound art”. Os processos são improvisacionais, mas neste CD os habituais padrões da música improvisada desaparecem. Somos absorvidos pela esfera do som, aquela imaginada por Giacinto Scelsi. Percebemos que há música já antes da música propriamente dita. Rui Eduardo Paes (Jazz.pt)
A composite of environmental sounds, electronics, and viola, recorded in Barcelona, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal from intrepid audio explorers Ferran Fages and Ernesto Rodrigues, the single long work taking the listener on a theoretical journey of transparent traffic, squealing wheels and indeterminate location, engrossing in its detail and the mystery it presents. Squidco
It seems to me that the current ethos in improvisation - mind you, in a certain part of improvised music that is seemingly dominated by the Erstwhile roster - is blurring consciously the line between music that is improvised or composed (as you know by now, some composers still practice open, indeterminate forms of composition) and environmental sounds that are accidental or the conscious result of the musician(s)' desire to record them - to the point that the (untrained?) ear, left on its own, may perceive music in what may actually be a "random" noise and consider part of the field recording sounds that may actually come from the musician(s).
Cage would be proud - and some of the followers of the EAI scene (or what is still being called as such) may notice with some disappointment that certain improvisers have started rejecting actual interplay, by overlaying, pasting together - in the space of an album, of course - what are in fact solo improvisations. Luciano Maggiore & Enrico Malatesta's talabalacco is one such example, but the approach seems to shine more on cru.
Richard Pinnell suggests that Ernesto Rodrigues, being the second to record himself, has listened to Ferran Fages and places his sounds in response to the first improvisation. Therefore, no accidental fooling around. In spite of what the title might suggest, cru is - unless if you are new to this kind of music - definitely not "crude", far from raw. Some of what you and I can hear here may also be heard in just about any urban environment, but, listening to this here and now, you can notice the beauty in what otherwise comes and goes for various purposes. This kind of spirit that this kind of music has brought - thanks to Cage, mind you - may be synthesized in this little epiphanic story (just a few days after I had first listened - or tried to listen - to the uncompromising Weather Sky by Rowe and Nakamura):
Part of my nearly daily routine is going to the supermarket in the area closest to my home (my city is renowned for its number of supermarkets and hypermarkets per capita...) and grabbing some pastry product from there, as they are cheaper than in the actual pastries from the very same area. I often eat right away, at the exit, but sometimes I cross hastily the one-way street and sit on one of the free benches in front of a long block of flats (Ceausescu-era, of course). From the block next to me I could hear the frequency of a vacuum cleaner. (I knew it was a vacuum cleaner several minutes after, when it was turned off.)
Music to my ears as it captured perfectly the spirit of the landscape: above the supermarket across the street, also seconded by rows of blocks of flats, the sky did not betray the sun, just the effects of the sunset - slowly moving yellow-dusty-golden clouds between which vapor trails (there's an airport not very far from the city) were also moving, slightly faster. For a while, before the disappearance of that vacuum cleaner sound, no traffic on this street, just the oceanic sound of very distant traffic. Everything was in its place. yigruzeltil (sputnik music)