September 26, 2009
Un llamp que no s’acaba mai
Augustí Fernández & Ingar Zach
Barcelona-based Augustí Fernández is probably the most accomplished and readily identifiable Spanish pianist since Tete Montolieu – although both he and Montolieu would likely prefer to be known as Catalans.
Each of these high-class sessions emphasizes Fernández’ inventive versatility. As a quick rule-of-thumb, Un llamp que no s’acaba mai involves more of his on-the-keyboard skills and Germinal his explorations beneath the lid – bowing and slapping the string mechanism from soundboard to speaking length.
His partner on Germinal is Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach, who now lives near Madrid, and like the pianist has concretizes with many European improvisers as well as maintaining membership in groups such as Huntsville and Magnetic North Orchestra. Fernández, who teaches improvisation at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, is also a member of bands lead by bassist Barry Guy and saxophonist Evan Parker. Coincidentally bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders, who back up the pianist on the other CD, frequently work with Parker as well.
Sonically more like twins of different mothers than pianist and percussionist, Fernández, and Zach as frequently expose the abrasive and percussive qualities of both instruments as they do their timbral and lyrical qualities. For instance Zach is more likely to gash his drum stick along the cymbal or chafe drum skins than output a steady rhythm. For his part, the pianist clips the keys, twangs and stops strings with implements that emphasize his instrument’s metallic qualities. Unspecified sound echoes and forceful reverberations are so common throughout that they not only extend the power of the interactions, but leave unanswered the question of which sound belongs to which instrument. In fact, Germinal is designed to aurally reflect Spain’s long-time underground anarchist tradition.
Fernández’ piano patterning on a track such as “Capaz de luz “evolves to nocturne-like reflective cadences from Morse-code-like single note and soundboard vibrations. Meanwhile Zach sympathetically produces an undercurrent of connective drones from his drum heads as well as resounding glockenspiel-like pings. Throughout the percussionist is given enough space to showcase unique processes. One for instance, finds him whacking unattached cymbals for maximum spatial effect, while the pianist saws on wound bass strings and unwound treble strings beneath the lid. These additional tones bounce back from the piano’s capotes and speaking length.
Sonic communication between the two reaches a climax on “Arcano”, where the joint output of blurry percussion stroking plus flanged whistles and node-enhanced key-stopping suggest the sort of broken-octave refractions usually only possible with electronics. As Fernández sets up shop beneath the piano lid, rubbing and pounding the bottom frame, string set and speaking length, Zach counters with bell-strokes, drags and rolls. Finally the pianist increases the tension with kinetic actions that appear to strip the finish from the internal mechanism only to settle into reflective silences at the end.
Recorded in concert surroundings, Un llamp que no s’acaba mai more closely relates to the standard jazz piano trio, with its four sections taken moderato and surprisingly legato. A piece like the first for example, deflects more towards Edwards’ bass than the drummer’s press rolls and cymbal scrapes or the pianist’s layered glissandi. Here the bassist’s sul tasto and sul ponticello string excavations expand into atonal pumping, scraping and scratching. The contrapuntal interludes are so discordant, that it takes reassuring low-pitched string taps from Edwards to specifically identify the bass.
As for the pianist, his output ranges from the near-formal, with recital-like portamento runs and arpeggio tinkling; to the most liberated, as he scratches the instrument’s wood inside and outside, and pummels the keys in kinetic response to the drummer’s cymbal strokes and hammering percussion. Sanders’ showcase is saved for “Quarto”, but even here he displays his wares without overpowering the others. In sync with Fernández’ high-pitched string-scraping – that replicates saxophone trills – and Edwards’ triple-stopping bowing, the drummer reverberates pops and paradiddles on cymbals, toms and snares, while thwacking his bass drum. With Edwards buzzing his strings in a spiccato manner and Fernández using pedal action to push his drones to an equivalent timbre, the three finally bond.
Pianism at its most assured, Fernández and associates bring complementary skills to the aural sound pictures.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Germinal: 1. Volutas 2. Hojarasca 3. Arcano 4. Es la nieve sobre et mar 5. Hidromiel 6. Capaz de luz
Personnel: Germinal: Augustí Fernández (piano) and Ingar Zach (percussion)
Track Listing: llamp: 1. Primo 2. Secondo 3. Tertio 4. Quarto
Personnel: llamp: Augustí Fernández (piano); John Edwards (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums)