April 28, 2009
Esteban Algora/Alessandra Rombolá/Ingar Zach
… de las piedras
Another Timbre at09
Robert Dick-Steve Baczkowski-Ravi Padmanabha
Epoch Music No #
Ute Völker-Angelika Sheridan
Valve Records Valve # 6087
Adventurous flute players, recorded in different configurations, unite the bands on these discs, which collectively plumb the timbres available when contrasting unusual tones from unexpected instrumental groupings. Anything but standard flute fare, each has something to offer the adventurous fripple fancier.
Dean of experimental flautists, New York’s Robert Dick is featured on Doh Tala in a first-time meeting with two younger Buffalo musicians: reedist Steve Baczkowski and percussionist Ravi Padmanabha. Doh Tala mixes a soupçon of Indian music with Free Music. In contrast, negotiating the fine line between improvised and notated New music, is Leuchtfische by the six-year-old duo of Köln-based flautist Angelika Sheridan and Wuppertal-based accordionist Ute Völker. Völker, a founder of the Partita Radicale ensemble is also one of the literally hundreds of musicians who has concretized with Dick.
Utilizing some instruments used on the other sessions, but less geographically homogenous is … de las piedras. Italian flautist Alessandra Rombolá usually plays so-called classical music, though she has recorded with the No spaghetti edition ensemble and with harpist Rhodri Davis. Madrid-based Esteban Algora, first-call accordionist for contemporary music in Spain, plays with a clutch of symphony orchestras and is part of a long-standing duo with Rombolá. Norwegian drummer Ingar Zach is in bands as dissimilar as the improv power-trio Huntsville and the large No spaghetti edition ensemble.
Transmogrifying the Carnatic influence in spite of Padmanabha’s bell-shaking, tabla vibrating and tambura drones on Doh Tala, Dick’s flute obbligato is resolutely western even while creating folkloric bansuri-like tones. The master of multi-directional glissandi, the flautist’s tone is alternately staccato and smooth, with obtuse and contrapuntal voicing there to trade licks with Baczkowski. The later, who mostly sticks to pedal-point rumblings from the baritone saxophone, at points adds higher-pitched trills from smaller reeds as well as twanging passages on a Jew’s harp approximation. The reedist’s extended techniques have conventional homologues a well, as when his thick split tones intertwine with Dick’s cross-pulsed and popped air ripples. At points bringing out his bass flute for echoing grumbles, Dick sounds more comfortable playing higher-pitched, narrower trills.
Rappelling watery lines southwards on some tracks, the flautist is also met by clock-like clangs and tambura thumps from Padmanabha. Ready at all times with gongs and other miscellaneous occidental percussion as well as his beat collection from the sub-continent, Padmanabha’s percussive smarts are often displayed with swipes, whacks, rolls and bounces – not to mention some South Asian rhythmic chanting.
Perhaps the best example of trio cooperation appears on “Qunatum”. Baczkowski’s tongue-stops and within-the-body tube timbres vibrate contrapuntally as the flautist growls out splintered multiphonics. As Dick’s wriggling lines are transformed into audacious impressionism, the saxman turns to slide-whistle intimations as Padmanabha rolls and slaps his drums, wood blocks and cymbals. Reaching a crescendo of electronic-styled crackles and distortion, the triple improvising disintegrates into silence, but not before Baczkowski achieves a split-tone climax.
Introducing a chordal instrument to the interface on Leuchtfische, in essence allows Völker to manufacture a space for Sheridan’s harsh, flute glissandi. Throughout the baker’s dozen of tracks, the two frequently also switch roles. Utilizing her instrument’s buttons and bellows, the accordionist modifies her position from one creating ostinato percussive momentum to one adding rococo coloration to the flautist’s broad breath control. Glissing from the one end to the other of her range, Sheridan moves from basso-engorged tongue stops at points to near-vocalized lyrical bites elsewhere.
Kinetic in her responses and mercurial in her improvisations, Völker’s strategies skirt lugubrious stopping with pitch-sliding abrasions, preferring to define her role with gradually swelling dynamics leavened with pin-pointed jabs. Sharp, pointillist pitch extensions or fluid rumbles from the flautist are often colored with pumping, cumulative chords. Adding bellow-driven textures from Volksmusik as well as New music, the accordionist wraps up many an improv with rubato and descriptive chords.
Adding the percussion discursiveness from Zach’s bass drum and percussion – as well as the natural reverb of Urueña’s accordion, the Madrid-based trio multiples the textures available on … de las piedras. A high percentage of the beats Padmanabha reaches for on the other session are approximated by Zach, who additionally sounds vibraharp-like strokes from carefully arranged floor tiles. As long-standing a duo as Völker-Sheridan, Algora-Rombolá brings similar invention – plus and cohesion – to their interaction.
This is shown to best advantage on “alabastro”, when ostinato accordion tones pulse while minimalist flute vibrations rebound off the location’s ceiling. Bellow-driven loops from Algora continue to fabricate the bottom as strident cymbal scrapes and flute shrilling expand the room’s spectral qualities by multiplying audible nodes and overtones. Additional polyphony arises when blurry bass flute glissandi slope across swelling accordion rumbles and the drummer highlights drags and drones.
Auxiliary kinetic textures are added to the mix on “turmalina” when Zach whacks a mixture of cymbals, tiles, ratchets and drum tops. A pedal-point accordion base gives the percussionist the freedom to configure the sounds to complement the others’ sonic flights. Eventually with an aural resemblance to a motor chugging to a halt, the piece ends.
Austere when necessary and with intimations of baroque tinctures elsewhere, this group – like the other two – redefines the chamber ensemble. None can be pigeonholed, but all can be appreciated.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Doh: 1. Lunar 2. Epoch 3. Boarding 4. Doh Tala 5. Moors 6. Qunatum 7. Tracking 8. Centripical 9. Mourn 10. Inert Puja
Personnel: Doh: Robert Dick (flutes); Steve Baczkowski (baritone saxophone and reeds) and Ravi Padmanabha (drums, tabla and other percussion)
Track Listing: Leuchtfische: 1. bathyphilum 2. nimbaria 3. taenia 4. obtusirostra 5. blackfordi 6. denudatum 7. argenteus 8. ovatus 9. elongata 10. microdon 11. pedaliota 12. corytheola 13. andriashevi
Personnel: Leuchtfische: Angelika Sheridan (flutes) and Ute Völker (accordion)
Track Listing: Piedras: 1. ámbar 2. alabastro 3. galena 4. turmalina 5. jade 6. amatista
Personnel: Piedras: Alessandra Rombolá (flutes and tiles installation); Esteban Algora (accordion) and Ingar Zach (bass drum and percussion)