Nocturna Discordia #19 at Soda – 25th Mar ’15

El Pricto (alto sax)
Agustí Fernández (piano)
Nuno Rebelo (guitar)
Jelena Glazova (laptop)

This Discordian thing is acquiring an increasingly global flavour. This evening sees performers hailing from Venezuela, Mallorca, Portugal and Latvia – the Catalans are all in the audience (although not all the audience are Catalans).

Anyway, before we get to the performance, let’s just acknowledge the Soda record library and note that the pre-gig vinyl was a 1965 live performance from Louis Armstrong. No idea what Satchmo would make of what’s about to follow but as long as there’s improvisation then these branches – however widespread – share a root or two…

It starts with an electronic rumble and a plucked piano string. Guitar and alto arrive, with a wiry tone and a series of purrs and gurgles. This initial onslaught is sinister, dark, and ever-so-slightly otherworldly. Against a backdrop of drones, processed voice recordings, and other atmospherics from Glazova’s laptop, Fernández is tapping away at the keys while muting the strings with a wooden block, Rebelo whips out a violin bow and begins to saw at the strings between his chord hand and the nut, and El Pricto’s horn leads the descent into madness – the lurker is most definitely about to the cross the threshold.

Maybe it’s just because I watched Blade Runner (again!) the previous night, but there’s a distinctly dystopian feel. Like the soundtrack to a decaying culture (insert political commentary here). Rebelo’s Baily-esque non-idiomatic lines sketch an image with a disconcerting lack of form, while Pricto’s buzzes and growls suggest anger and frustration. Fernández embellishes the aural landscape with perfectly-placed stray notes, and through it all cuts a dentist’s drill sound sculpture from Rīga.

Which is not say it’s all relentless noise-making. Naturally not. Moments of quiet and resurgence occur – moments of rest and absence from which emerge delicate atonal guitar riffs, or flat muted bass piano notes, or pointillistic alto riffing.

Have to admit, once or twice the mix tilts a little too off-kilter for me – the electronics swell just a little too large and overwhelm the others giving rise to a primitive Tristram Cary vibe. It’s no bad thing, but the best moments are when all four are in sync and balance: four mad professors carving an ever-changing sonic picture out of inventive subtlety and restraint.

The second piece is – for want of a better word – a little more ‘modern’. It feels more now than then, and if that makes little sense then take a moment to remember the oft-attributed adage, “writing about music is like fishing about architecture” and then read on… Fernández teases us, first by flicking the keys too softly to elicit a sound from inside the piano’s workings (playing a rapid series of non-notes) and then by teetering on the edge of an actual melody. Pricto draws out a series of long cries interspersed with short truncated bursts of sound. Glazova serves up something simple and echo-driven which creates a sense of space for the others to fill. And Rebelo reaches into a box of tricks to prepare and manipulate the guitar strings to produce extended and non-traditional swathes of sound.

With a last rumble and drone, the final silence descends. Has something been created here, or destroyed? It’s not certain but then, they are two sides of the same coin…

(http://www.soda.cat/)