Ivo Sans (drums)
Àlex Reviriego (bass)
Tom Chant (tenor and soprano saxes)
Pablo Rega (guitar)

I couldn’t always put my finger on it, but there was a somewhat zen quality to this week’s session; an introspective meditative air that drew the audience in and the faulty lighting (every now and then, we’d all be dipped into darkness for a fraction of a second for no apparent reason) failed to dispel.

It began for me (I was a touch late – apologies) with a slowly rising rumble of drums accompanied by a creaking arco bass. Chant’s tenor was pushing at all the borders, testing, building, preparing… the volume and intensity rises and falls, ebbs and flows in a seemingly natural progression. As for Rega, I’m at the back of the room and finding it hard to see exactly what he’s up to. He’s certainly not strumming chords. Rather, he’s engaging in a number of extended techniques, adding subtleties and overtones to the overall sonic mix, many of which are tantalisingly out of reach. The free improv temple atmosphere continues with a flurry of sudden drum strikes, Sans delivering the percussion equivalent of a blow from the kyosaku stick followed by a ritual handful of bass notes and almost gong-like tones from the cymbals. Things are getting quite otherworldly as Chant switches mid-piece to soprano and Rega continues with his unorthodox attack (I definitely saw a child’s balloon, and the following day, it was confirmed that he was using a camera flash unit which somehow induces a response from the guitar’s pick-ups – delicately eerie).

As ever, the R23 artist-in-residence, Miquel Jordà was there with his sketchbook.

Rob23 - 12Feb15 - pic by MJorda

After the inward-peering first half, Chant (now back on tenor) and Rega lead off the second piece with a pretty storming sax’n’guitar duet. A series of bold, no holds barred, energetic, cut & paste guitar lines hint at blues, jazz, rock, you name it; while deep-throated tenor bursts bolster and drive the cacophony. Then, with a full-kit clatter and a pizzicato string-scrubbing frenzy, Sans and Reviriego join the fray, only to have everything die away to a virtual silence from which a simple metallic bass whine emerges. Rega adds the quietest of harmonics. Chant is barely breathing. Sans sits patiently listening with his trademark restraint, waiting for the right moment to add a cymbal scrape.

I’m finding this so relaxing, the combination of storm and silence washing over me.

Finally, we enter the final stretch with an unusually jazz-y riff from Reviriego which he repeats, twists and stretches while Sans builds a veritable wave of kinetic energy. Rega adds some long, vibrato-drenched lines and harmonic flurries, and Chant lays out – it seems everyone has the restraint and patience of a monk this evening.