Tom Chant (tenor & soprano saxes)
Ferran Fages (guitar)
Ivo Sans (drums)10984492_10153146511329935_1317773883326483817_o

Let’s face it, it’s a good name: The Anisotropic Perturbations. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (is there any other?), “anisotropic” means, having a physical property which has a different value when measured in different directions. Hmmm… “perturbation” means anxiety or mental uneasiness but for this trio, I like the secondary definition: a deviation of a system, moving object, or process from its regular or normal state or path, caused by an outside influence. For an hour in Absenta del Raval, there was definitely deviation from the norm with a variety of extended techniques on show, there were as many different directions as could be crammed into the time, and for some, it did seem to cause a touch of anxiety and mental uneasiness. So. The names fits, but what happened?

What happened was an hour of free improv, about as unfettered as it can get without anybody actually eating the instruments, and at a volume and intensity that was practically claustrophobic (although the boxy downstairs room at Absenta del Raval contributed to that) – an element of punk spirit but drawing on vastly more than the usual punk vocabulary.

Things started quietly – they usually do – with some minimalist blowing from Chant; joined after a pause by angular, strangled string manipulation from Fages. Sans seems to create his first sounds by sorting through a collection of sticks, brushes and mallets on top one of the drums, before a cymbal shimmer signals the addition of percussion and an increase in volume all round.

From here on, it’s a complex, connected, ever-evolving, layered soundscape that engages the perceptions, twists them a little, and leaves them reeling. Or to put it another way, there are a lot of things happening, none of them expected or predicted, and it’s full-on.

Chant works his way through a number of modes of expression – honks, skronks, gurgles, purrs… alternating between tenor and unipedal soprano to broaden the palette available, at times he appears to be in a trance, working his way satori-wards, in a wholly other place to the rest of us, connected to this world by sound only.

Sans runs the gamut from subtle to pleasingly brutal – utilising the kit’s rims and stands, a variety of percussive objects, a bell or two, and even the metal frame of a chair for delicate embellishments… while also embracing shock and volume, with occasional hammer-blows to the floor tom that lift the audience out of our seats (we were on the edge of them already). It’s a very natural flow – about as far from mechanical as it’s possible to be – like water running downhill.

Fages spends much of the first half delving into his box of tricks: unearthly Ebow, metal rulers and rods scraping the strings, attacking the instrument behind the nut or bridge, moving some of mute/band up and down the neck. Later on, he even holds the guitar by the body and scrapes the headstock against the tiled floor. Naturally, there’s also a lot of more traditional fingers-on-strings-&-frets technique (rapid runs, a few minor chords, some piercing harmonics) although the resulting sounds are far from trad, and it’s Fages’ instrument that provides much of the volume and angularity.

It occurs to me that when face with such a Berlin Wall of sound, the ears are not the only part of the body responding to the resonant frequencies. Closing my eyes for a moment, I can feel the sax in my head, the drums in my chest, and the guitar in my gut. Not sure whether that holds any significance but it’s interesting – the joys of a ‘front-row’ seat.

Nor were the dynamics neglected. At two or three points, the ‘noise’ dropped away like a tide suddenly going out and interludes of filigreed quiet emerged – each time, soon to return to room-filling density, but the point is, we were served a little yin with our yang.

The event was billed as the trio’s “world premiere” and by their own statement, they “…formed to explore the universal singularity, or lack of it, through highly unstable frequencies, aberrant rhythms and preternatural interplay.” Well, that’s those boxes ticked then.

Saturday 28th March 2015 – the world’s first glimpse of The Anisotropic Peturbations; hopefully, it’s not the last…