BCN Impro Fest 2nd session at Sala Fènix – 16th Feb. ’16

The second evening of the BCN Impro Fest, celebrating the improvised music scene in Barcelona, with two quintets – both at the experimental and even playful end of the spectrum…

Improvisation the Third

Carlos Ródenas (electric bass)
Ferran Besalduch (bass & sopranino saxophones)
Fernando Carrasco (electric guitar)
Patxi Varela (drums)
Pope (trumpet)

A circular bass sax riff, a trumpet used to modulate and amplify the sound of breathing, drums that ape the ripples on a stone-struck pond, a random constellation of bass points, gong-like chimes from a malletted lap-held guitar… these are the initial ingredients that we are presented with. And then the five musicians begin to collectively stir the pot.

This set is a shifting, roiling continuous experiment in sound. Not always so musical, at times almost anti-music (although if anyone in the room can define “music” to everyone’s satisfaction, I’d love to hear it) but fascinating in the extreme – all the more so for the visual component of being able to watch the creation process.

For the breath-driven instruments, Besalduch and Pope tinker with the interface between mouth and mouthpiece, sometimes dispensing with the mouthpiece entirely. Carrasco’s guitar is rarely on the strap, more often across the lap or held upright, and frequently bristles with muting clips or has the most un-guitarlike tones dragged from it by a bow. Varela’s drumheads might be stroked by rubber-headed mallets and Ródenas at one point lays the bass flat and strokes the strings with a rod to produce some sort of unearthly low-end theremin. The volume balance sometimes means Pope and Carrasco are drowned out a little but the finer moments are those when one or two instruments emerge from the maelstrom and are allowed moments of delicacy – and everyone gets a turn, solo or duo.

All in all, maybe best described as a series of experiments in timbre and frequency in which the rough edges served to enhance the moments of purity.

Improvisation the Fourth

Xavi Lloses (pianos)
Miquel Àngel Marín (clarinet)
Ivo Sans (drums)
Diego Caicedo (electric guitar)
Miquel Jordà (sopranino saxophone, wooden flute)

So. We start with each musician throwing a cork(?) into the air and catching it. Breathe in on the up and out on the down. From simple breathing to intoned words, to the universal OM. Progress from cork-tossing to inflated winebox bags (empty, sadly) and it certainly wins as the most oddball start to an improvisation. I’m not sure what impact it had on the sounds that followed (other than Lloses’ piano…) but it did fit with a theme of experimentation – and I also learned that Diego Caicedo can’t catch. (Well, not corks anyway. Sounds? Absolutely!) That said, a couple of minutes of this and there’s quite some pent-up energy – everybody seems desperate to be let loose on their respective instruments…

Jordà is first off with his trademark minimalist sopranino. Sans is a blur at the drumkit, providing a cascade of accents with skin, rim and cymbal. Caicedo’s beautifully-toned old Telecaster emits fractured and disjointed space-blues riffs. Marín’s clarinet cries and moans, evocatively stabbing the air. And it’s Lloses who runs with the introductory high jinks, using the inflated silver winebag to hammer and caress the keys, creating percussive splashes and long chromatic runs in the cacophony.

Similar to the first set, nothing stands still. Jordà switches to wooden (bamboo?) flute as the volume drops momentarily, allowing his earthy Eastern tone and Caicedo’s fragmented riffs to come to the fore; closely followed by Marín blowing through the clarinet keys, adding a barely discernible filigree to the overall sound. Prompted by a short (too short!) drum & guitar moment, the energy seems to coalesce and Sans and Caicedo are joined by Lloses on toy piano (while elbowing bass notes on the full-size version next to him), Marín using another inflated bag for gunshot percussive sounds, and Jordà’s dervish sopranino dancing above it all. Incidentally, the cymbal scrape may be a common enough experimental percussion technique but I’m more and more certain that nobody does it with such nuance as Ivo Sans. He somehow can precisely manipulate the resulting sound so that what seems like a sequence of tones emerge clearly.


And another session is done. Two quartets for the first week. Two quintets for the second. Do we dare detect a pattern? I guess it’s a case of turn up for week number three and find out…

For more information on BCN Impro Fest, check out the festival blog at and the Facebook page for Sala Fènix.

The 3rd session of the BCN Impro Fest will be held at Sala Fènix on Tuesday 23rd February. And if you need convincing further, why not read about the first (inaugural) session…?

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