Malfatti/Drumm/Capace

The Volume Surrounding the Task
Potlatch P216

Like measuring the inevitability of atmospheric circulation, the three sonic meteorologists here set off to probe the farthest edges of free music while mapping their challenge to convention. The droning, reductionist result is fascinating in some manner, but also mesmerizing in the way a YouTube video of an unfolding accident is riveting. You want to look away, but you remain for the resolution. It’s the same with this CD.

Each of the performers has a history in the creation of non-idiomatic sounds. Chicago-based electronics expert Kevin Drumm has moved from collaborations with the likes of Ken Vandermark and Jim O’Rourke to solo wave form manipulation. Argentine-born, Berlin based Lucio Capece has used bass clarinet and preparations in solo and group situations with Axel Dörner and Burkhard Beins among others. The player with the longest pedigree in experimental music is Austrian trombonist Radu Malffatti, who over a 40-year career has gone from playing with Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath to concentrating on aleatory composition and microtonal improvisation.

First of all to avoid being like Columbus searching for India in a location where it didn’t exist, the listener shouldn’t expect conventional themes or development during the single almost 40½-minute track that is The Volume Surrounding the Task. Most of the sounds are the equivalent of audio chiaroscuro, commingling so that timbre delineation is uncertain. Crackling buzzes and whistles of various speeds, loudness and intensities create machine-generated, solid-state-like juddering pulses, courtesy of Drumm. But the only horn tones that can be confirmed are when Capece lets loose with some bull elephant-like lowing or when Malfatti whooshes unaccented air through his instrument without slide movement. Gurgles and gargles occasionally peep through the droning hum, but respite from infrequent tone crescendos is usually silence not other motifs. Like water-mixed gelatin gradually hardening into a distinct shape, three individual tones perceptively bond during the track’s penultimate 10 minutes. Backward-running tape flanges, basso gurgles and flat-line puffs break through the hypnotic drone only long enough for brief identification. Then like a motor running down the improvisation fades.

No bagatelle for the casual listener, immersion in the tune’s musical logic will reward those willing to comply with its selfsame parameters.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. The Volume surrounding the Task

Personnel: Radu Malfatti (trombone); Lucio Capece (bass clarinet and preparations) and Kevin Drumm (electronics)