Oriol Roca (drums)
Marco Mezquida (piano)
Marc Cuevas, Àlex Reviriego (bass)
Margarida Mariño, Míriam Fèlix, Mireia Pla, Joan Antoni Pich (cello)
Alicia Domínguez, Pepi Izquierdo (viola)
Violeta Paulina, Sabina López (violin)
Iván González (conducting)
In this third incarnation, it was strings-only (with Oriol Roca’s rhythmic and percussive invention being the honourable exception). Maybe because Iván González had some different ingredients in the mix, he chose to start slow this time. Previous events have commenced with the whole ensemble in an adrenaline-fuelled sturm und drang, but tonight, we had a delicate beginning. A slow drone pulls us in, bare touches of percussion and piano, a rise in pitch, a little vibrato, slowly building complexity and occasional touches of random dissonance add to our sense of anticipation.
Suddenly, everybody’s plucking (it sounds so much more earthy than ‘pizzicato’) including Marco Mezquida’s left hand inside the guts of the piano. Roca clatters his way around the whole kit, constructing a lurching rhythm, as some shrill upper register violin provides an eerie edge. We may have started out with delicacy and refinement, but these string-players are out to show they can be as brutal as any saxophonist!
The only drawback (and it’s not really even that) of these large ensembles is that there’s so much to see. Seated right behind Mezquida, I was fascinated to see up close the fluidity and precise innovation. Unfortunately, the piano blocked my view of Roca and I normally love to watch the drums. Still, the real visual draw at a Memoria Uno gig is González’ hands: horizontal, vertical, a pointing finger, palm up, palm down, sweeping from side to side… it’s an involved sign language in which every gesture produces beautiful noise in a tight connection between conductor and ensemble.
Four cellos gives the sound a certain richness, to say the least, not to mention a slightly sonorous melancholy. Of the five, Míriam Fèlix gets the most solo time, often hammering and battering the strings and body in perfectly disjointed fashion. There’s an absolutely exquisite passage towards the end of the first improvisation, in which almost everybody creaks and squeaks, scraping strings, rubbing on the bodies of their instruments, a chorus of groans at the whim of González’ right hand.
The second section starts off as something of a noise-fest. González cues everybody in and then sits back on his stool and sips a beer, his affected nonchalence raising a few smiles as people saw busily away. Then, boom! Practically everything comes to a dead stop, leaving just the two basses, drums and piano. As I say, I can’t see Roca’s kit but judging from the volume, there’ll be nothing left but splinters. In true yin-yang fashion, the wheel turns, everything changes, and as the rest of the gang rejoin the fray, riffs and motifs emerge, build, twist and fracture, and dissolve into yet more chaos from which further order rises… it’s practically a spiritual experience.
The third and final piece is more delicate again, an abstract, almost pointillistic affair, centred around a repeated refrain on the piano – the contemplative side of Memoria Uno.
This is becoming a genuine phenomenon. These events are well-attended (standing room only) and it’s only a matter of time before Memoria Uno is ‘forced’ into larger venues. I can certainly imagine them playing some of the larger and swankier auditoriums around town (the Palau de la Música? Why not?) so my recommendation is to get yourself down to Sala Fènix, if only so you can say you were there, at the beginning, before they were famous… 😉
There’s talk of another performance (on 7th July) and possibly a further recording session, if enough copies of the first CD are sold, heh! (Well, I’ve had mine for some time now, but you can get yours from Iván at firstname.lastname@example.org, or download it from Discordian Records Bandcamp page).
(The image is from the pen of Miquel Jordà.)