(Evil Rabbit Records)

My kind of album, and one that will offer a stimulating audio experience to those willing to take the risk, in a way Rotations could be filed under "traditional" - provided one has a look at the year on the calendar, that is. Quite vivacious when it comes to timbre, highly inventive when it comes to the organization of the material, it's "open" enough to actively engage listeners while not being so "indeterminate" as to make them wholly responsible to find meaning.

Musicians involved, in alphabetical order: Antonio Borghini, Meinrad Kneer, Klaus Kürvers, and Miles Perkin. The liner notes indicate the position of each musician in the stereo spread, making it possible for attentive listeners - headphones are of course welcome - to perceive the individual contribution of all involved.

Sporting fine recorded sound by Roy Carroll, the album was mixed and mastered by Miles Perkin. At 48' 10", an album of perfect length, just like an old vinyl record. Excellent dynamics.

Given the fact that recording sessions were concentrated in a single day, I'd guess a certain amount of preparation was involved, since the type of music featured on the album - the cover doesn't say, but my guess is we are presented with the fruit of  "scored improvisations" and "graphic scores" - is often in danger of coming out as formless. Starting from my first listening session I perceived that I was confronted with something already organized, the opposite of those circumstances where one "finds" meaning by simply becoming accustomed to listening to the same random succession of events over and over, so that they appear to have been given meaning right from the start.

What about the featured instrumentation, I hear you say. Well, I could mention synthesizers, percussion, vocals, echoes, and low frequencies, since this is the timbral panorama that's in front of us. But no, it's "just" four double basses. There, I said it.

This is the kind of information I want to reveal last, since my experience in the trenches tells me there are a lot of courageous listeners when it comes to unusual sounds, the same listeners becoming fearful when it comes to encountering particular instrumental combinations as written on paper.

It goes without saying that it's the great variety of acoustic timbres that's one of the most stimulating feature of this work. Here I think that the editing and mixing have given an added dimension thanks to variations in volume and the use of artificial reverberant spaces, so providing the material with additional ex post shaping. Whether this is true, also the quantity of any ex post intervention, are fatally bound to remain hypothetical entities.

I think that when it comes to the general framework this should suffice, so let's have a quick look at those pieces.

Resting Crows is a good starting point. It fades in with a taste of Ayler-like "Free Jazz". There's a central episode that's quite percussive. A lively "tutti" at the end.

Birdcages is split in two parts. The first part features a melodic arpeggiated phrase that is played in hocketing fashion by all doubles basses, notes traveling in the stereo spread with changing colours; a kind of flamenco chord played unison takes the first part to its close. The second part features chords played unison with arco, the whole sounding not too far from slow renditions of Roscoe Mitchell's Nonaah; then the chord blooms into a melody, all instruments playing independently. There's an air of austere lyricism, à la Mitchell. In closing, a "pedal".

The main function of the two brief episodes titled Interlude I and II is to frame the long piece titled Rotations. Both feature arpeggiated, percussive climates.

Just like Inside, the long (14' 56") piece titled Rotations sounds like the outcome of a "scored improvisation" and shows a more "active" dimension in the mix, with the addition of some effects. There are elements which sound like "scrubbing" and "loops". At times one can almost hear a kind of "ethnic flute". Starting at about 5', rhythm accelerates, then starting at about 7' there's a funny combination of timbres that appears to pair Hans Reichel's daxophone and the square wave of an old VCS3. We hear what sounds like a choir, then a more rarefied air. (Then, silence - like a space reserved for applause.)

Lifts & Escalators sounds like a "programmatic" piece, maybe a "graphic score". There's an ongoing ascending movement. Then, an improvisation along "minimal/meditative" lines, with a certain Eastern flavour. We hear "vocals" (?). In closing, a long melodic descending phrase, sounding like a tape slowing down.

Inside features fine percussive work, with a "loop" of harmonics, and elements placed in space, to add depth, something which reminded me of Biota. Here I thought I could detect a greater use of added reverberant space. This is a very fine piece, which sounds more "abstract" than those around it.

Passing By is the album's close. Though I'm aware my definition is in a way too facile, to me this piece sounds like what a still observer perceives when immersed in the changing sound space of a railway station. It's a fine piece, and one that doesn't become predictable with repeated listening sessions. Theatre or movie directors are invited to join in.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2014 | May 6, 2014