Ramon Prats (drums)
Àlex Reviriego (bass)
Tom Chant (tenor and soprano saxes)
Marco Mezquida (piano)

For once, the bar area at R23 is free of chatterers. Not that it’s a great problem, usually. Sometimes a snatch of conversation is like crossed wires with another world and – if brief – might even enhance the listening experience (and if not, somebody usually shushes them). But tonight it’s pretty silent for much of the set, and after the inevitable chaotic start as the four instruments reach out to each other, the musicians take advantage and we’re treated to some very delicate ‘brushstrokes’: Chant flutters gently, Reviriego’s arco softly judders in the upper registers, Prats’ cymbals barely whisper, and Mezquida adds a haunting little refrain that hangs over everything.

Of course, it won’t last and nor would we wish it to.

Pretty soon, the drums are clattering along to gong-like tones, the piano sounds like a swarm of stressed-out bees, the tenor barges about looking for escape, and underneath it all, the bass goes, doom, doom, doom… There’s a touch of ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ to this first piece but overall it’s a prolonged sequence of well-crafted (lovecrafted? *groan*) tense dynamics; as ever, captured by Miquel Jordà’s pen:Rob23 - 26Feb15 - pic by MJorda

The second ‘movement’ starts with the evocative bare bones of a melody from Mezquida while Chant’s soprano adds splashes of randomness. Prats is creating a kind of pattering percussion (I’ve heard him do this before, he seems to be twisted something that lies on top of the drum but I can’t tell what – whatever it is, it’s effective). Reviriego abuses his instrument to good effect with a drumstick, hitting the body, poking it through the strings… As matters evolve, there’s tension as everyone seems to be trying to wring the most from the minimum of actual notes – the repetition gives it the air of a prayer to a deaf god; perhaps it’s not responding because proceedings move to more distinctly alien territory. Chant produces metallic scraping and piercing whistles, Mezquida is practically rigid with concentration, Reviriego is smiling and nodding, and Prats appears to have nodded off before applying the mallets to elicit a room-filling wash of cymbal. Maybe the prayer was answered.