Naná Rovira & Fernando Carrasco at Taller Volta de la Perdiu – 22nd May ’15

Naná Rovira (bass clarinet)
Fernando Carrasco (guitar, effects)

For a few days in May, the hidden workshops of Barcelona open their doors and display the talent within. Hopping from barrio to barrio, the Tallers Oberts festival settled in the central Ciutat Vella neighbourhood from the 22nd to the 24th. One of these open workshops, Taller Volta de la Perdiu, is showing examples of painting, illustration and binding and to kick off the proceedings, a free concert of free improvisation (double free!) with Naná Rovira and Fernando Carrasco.

So, having eyed the artwork and admired the bespoke notebooks, it’s time for some sounds. Carrasco settles in with a black Telecaster and a frightening array of effects pedals, while Rovira is ready with a rather more straightforwardly acoustic clarinet + lungs setup; should be an interesting contrast…

And contrast is what we get. Deep, vibrato-laden groans from the bass clarinet are complemented by the near-industrial scrapings of a violin bow on the guitar strings. As Carrasco elicits a combination of the mechanical and the musical from his axe, Rovira roams the sonic landscape, ranging from desolate and bereft cries to staccato burps and swells. As the first piece dies away, the overall mood culminates with a weird melancholy optimism – interesting.

For the second immersion, Carrasco switches on a combination of pedals and processors, resulting in a throbbing, 60s sci-fi feedback rhythm that requires no input via the strings; as if the guitar is breathing heavily on its own. Across this backdrop, Rovira spatters drops and dollops of sound. As Carrasco begins to apply a metal rod and Rovira shifts to more sculptural (and sinister) lines, we can feel the space filling up around us with a slightly claustrophobic density.

In yet another section, echoing arpeggios blur and twist into a spiralling and dissonant drone as the horn gives out a number of prolonged and mournful explanations. Later, pachyderm-ish roars are layered over non-idiomatic overdriven randomness. There’s no frenzy or hurried abandon here; in fact, the playing from both seems to be a series of carefully considered and precise responses – an ongoing, wide-ranging yet measured conversation. It’s abstract, thoughtful, even intellectual, cliché-free improvisation which, despite (or perhaps because of) its evident energy, is actually quite meditative.

(Some atmospheric photos from Elena Márquez can be found here.)