Proletariat cs438

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To begin a discussion of the recent series of Lisbon String Trio albums, it might be worthwhile — or at least amusing — to describe my initial experience of their existence: I received Proletariat together with some of the other (mostly) string ensemble albums from Creative Sources that I've recently discussed. My first impression, and by that I mean after hearing it once, was that there were some very striking passages & many interesting interactions, and that it was also a rather short album, such that I was thinking, "Hmm, it kind of leaves me wanting more...." Again, that was after one listen, and I often have a rather different impression of something the second time. In this case, before there could be a second time, I saw that there were two followups already, Télépathie & K'Ampokol Che K'Aay, on which horn players joined the trio. Great, I thought, my wish granted. Then, before I even heard those two, three more albums appeared: Akuanduba, Intonarumori & Liames — the last with a pianist joining the trio, rather than a horn player as on the other four. (As I write this, several more releases just appeared on the Creative Sources site, but no more with the Lisbon String Trio, not yet anyway.) Rodrigues already releases an enormous quantity of material, even counting only those albums on which he himself appears, and so going through the releases in writing can almost seem like stepping through individual tracks on an album, which is a style I tend to find tedious personally (although maybe some people like it). Such an approach seems like even more of an issue here, as I'm thinking about how to discuss six closely related albums that were recorded & released in rapid sequence: These recordings were all made between March & May of this year, starting with Proletariat by the trio alone. The series has a common graphic design, featuring collages by Dilar Pereira; the first recording was made by someone else, but the remainder were recorded by Carlos Santos, all apparently direct to tape with no mixing. The result yields quite a bit of presence for what can still be some rather diffuse music at times. So let me try to say some different things about the different releases... after all, they are purchased separately....

As already alluded, Ernesto Rodrigues (on viola, as he is on the vast majority of his recent albums) is joined by bassist Álvaro Rosso & cellist Miguel Mira to form the Lisbon String Trio. Before his collaboration with Rodrigues, I knew Rosso only from Basso 3 & their album Meia catorze, first discussed here in January 2016. Perhaps he brought a bit of classical structure to that project? At this point, so many Portuguese bassists have appeared on albums of interest here, including three on that album, that I have a hard time distinguishing them stylistically — as I've also noted at times of some of the English improvisers. I don't mean that as a criticism, but the various overlapping concerns & techniques are a bit dizzying sometimes. (So it's more that I'm lacking sufficient context by which to differentiate.) In fact, Rosso's participation is quite worthwhile & welcome, and goes a long way toward forging the sound of the trio, as his bass explores deep registers beyond the more centric viola-cello interactions that Rodrigues has been prioritizing on so many of his other recent albums. Rather than such an emphasis on criss-crossing lines (as discussed here in May), which do still occur, as they certainly do for Basso 3 as well, each instrument tends to rest in a different range — such that Proletariat might almost be said to reenact the mid-15th century shift to an independent bass line below the tenor (versus the crossings of the previous generation). Mentioning the different ranges can be misleading, though, because the instruments interact & overlap directly in higher ranges via harmonics. In that sense, the music can blend vertically into a sort of Scelsian composite, or spin counterpoint in various pitch tiers with one or more instruments in harmonics. The frequent invocation of counterpoint marks the style of the Lisbon String Trio as more than Scelsian, but the sense of individual strings as individual instruments does hold, such that one might speak of twelve strings & three musicians. There's also a twentieth century classical sensitivity more generally, particularly in the play of different harmonies, such that Mira's participation on e.g. Earnear seems as relevant as his participation in so many Rodrigues projects. That's not to suggest that Proletariat maintains a light touch, however, as it can be quite aggressive, particularly with some big booming bass resonance that can really benefit from big speakers to convey a strong sense of space. There is a resulting feeling of power, even awe, as musical processes seem to pass through one another via resonance & harmonic-timbral shifts. The single track starts out with rather abstract counterpoint, which comes to seem almost transverse to the sense of interiorized sound & timbre that's also being explored — yielding a sense of double tapestry. Indeed, Proletariat is perhaps the most abstract album in the series, although it does also allude to such sonic poles as jungles & automobile traffic. The counterpoint contracts to a unified gesture or pulse midway through, a sort of halting yet forceful composite rhythm, and soon expands again with renewed tautness & power. (Perhaps this is the moment when they "really" forged the trio, the moment of collective consciousness one might say?) The music is immersive for the listener, meaning that there is no sense of "God's eye" perspective across a landscape: Perhaps this is exactly the sense in which I've objected to so-called musical landscapes or atmospheric music: They project a concept of exteriorized surface, of looking from the outside, whereas this sort of music engulfs. Although I've suggested some styles as being involved, even environmental sounds, the result remains both more & less than that, such that the performers forge a unified, non-idiomatic sound, within which musical collisions (or hybridities) occur between the smallest technical elements — rather than via collage effect as e.g. on Blattwerk. (The technical orientation might be compared to that on The Moment In and Of Itself, or at least to my remarks from last August about that album, although it has a very different sound.) That Proletariat forges a style more than it references styles is further underscored by the subsequent Lisbon String Trio releases that grow from it. They allow one to forget or forgive the brevity of this initial offering, while continuing to expand on its ideas, sometimes into more lyrical areas. I should also emphasize that, although Rodrigues has a reputation mostly for electroacoustic music (according to descriptions I see elsewhere), at least recently, he has been producing many acoustic albums, and this series of six is entirely acoustic — at least to the extent that a digital recording can be considered to be acoustic.

The next five albums by the Lisbon String Trio each involve a different musician joining them to improvise as a quartet. The next four use a horn, which seems like a natural addition to the string sound. Indeed, Rodrigues has done similar things before, not necessarily adding a horn to a preexisting ensemble (although I have no idea who has played with whom outside of recordings), but having a single horn amid a mostly-string ensemble. An obvious precedent is the quartet album Sukasaptati, recorded in Berlin in 2010, but released in 2015, and featuring Andrea Sans Vela (viola) & Klaus Kürvers (double bass) along with Rodrigues & Micha Rabuske on flute, bass clarinet & soprano sax. So this is a very similar ensemble, and was recorded seven years prior. That album involves more of what I would call meandering harmonies, sometimes with a hocketing style of polyphony, and less of an emphasis on shifting tones. Some of it sounds almost like film music. More recently, Dé-collage features a string quartet of Rodrigues & Rodrigues, Kürvers again, and Thea Farhadian on violin, with (frequent Rodrigues collaborator) Nuno Torres on alto sax. It is a generally quiet, squeaky, atmospheric sort of album that tends to weave a single tapestry. Admittedly, these albums didn't manage to attract my attention at the time, at least not relative to the many other albums released by Rodrigues, but do seem (more) relevant in the context of this series. Other relevant examples — that have already been mentioned in this space — are, once again (recently mentioned in the discussion of Blattwerk after being discussed here in January), Raw with John Butcher joining a Swiss string trio, as well as recent favorite New Artifacts with Tony Malaby joining the preexisting Maneri-Levin string duo. Further, of course there is Chant, which presented me with something of a paradigm for this sort of string-based joint interrogation of nativism & abstraction. (It always leaves me listening to the world differently.) Perhaps the latter is most comparable to the sixth Lisbon String Trio album, on which they're joined by a pianist — i.e. a fixed-pitch instrument that might at first seem out of place in such a setting. One might think of all of these albums almost as improvised concerti, although the textures are often far more integrated than the typical (oppositional) concerto.

Most of the musicians who recorded with the Lisbon String Trio were previously unknown to me. The big exception is Blaise Siwula, whose work I've followed. (More about that in a subsequent entry.) So when I saw his name in the next pair of releases, it definitely increased my sense of anticipation, and hopefully I wasn't prejudiced accordingly. I suppose I might well have been, but I do try to fight my own expectations (if that's actually possible). I'm going to wait for a separate entry to discuss his album K'Ampokol Che K'Aay, though, as well as for Intonarumori with trombonist Carlo Mascolo & Liames with pianist Karoline Leblanc. (Mascolo does have a previous solo album on Creative Sources, so he is the second best known, at least to me.) The release after Proletariat is Télépathie featuring Etienne Brunet (b.1954, Paris) on soprano sax — although it was actually recorded after K'Ampokol Che K'Aay (the third album released) — and the fourth is Akuanduba featuring Luiz Rocha, a "Brazilian based in Barcelona" on clarinet & bass clarinet. Perhaps it's coincidence that these musicians play instruments rather similar to Siwula's, which is entirely clarinet for his collaboration here, but their albums did not speak to me as strongly. Télépathie (recorded in April) begins with a percussive strike, becoming quite active right away, and also features some real "tunes" — maybe a bit of Steve Lacy, certainly some brief middle eastern horn, contrasting with something of a web of city traffic (again). There's a sort of "cool" repose, even of contrast, with sax tunes against shifting glissandi — as well as moments of extended dodecaphony. I particularly enjoy the contrapuntal opening, which tends to contract markedly in the second track, finally into a kind of walking chase that could almost be considered traditionally jazzy (and that in turn, together with the break following the galloping end to the first track, recalls & transforms the central moment of Proletariat). Rocha writes about his focus on Brazilian music such as the choro, as well as admiring Black Sabbath, and indeed Akuanduba (which is apparently Swahili, and which names a longer album than either Télépathie or Proletariat), recorded at Fundação José Saramago in May, has a sort of roughness about it. This general sort of European-Brazilian interaction peppers so many of these albums that it's difficult to say anything too specific about that orientation, although it's palpable: A basic quietness, present from the beginning, sometimes moves into percussive exchanges featuring staccato horn, but there's also a kind of a reactive quality, sometimes infused with ostinato. The result tends to shift the basic presumption of nature-culture poles, as signifying sounds penetrate each other from strange angles. (The bustle in turn comes to seem distant, even as the familiar resurfaces at various moments.) Indeed, Akuanduba often involves calmly swirling activity, including hocket. Although I'm not emphasizing either here, both albums are intriguing in their own right: It's impossible to know what I'd think of them if they were released in isolation. 24 July 2017. Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts