Mark Feldman / Ramon Lopez

March 4, 2020


Relative Pitch RPR 1093

Charlotte Hug/Lucas Niggli


Fundacja Sluchaj FSR12/2018

Contrasting hierarchal histories and tonal sensibilities come forward when confronting a duet between violin (or viola) and drums (or percussion). The first is the prototypical European instrument designed for melody; the other the prototypical African one designed for rhythmic expression. Resolving these sonic contradictions is what makes sessions like these compelling. Swiss natives, violist Charlotte Hug and percussionist Lucas Niggli tour in this configuration. The duo work is fit in among numerous other activities, ranging from theatre and string ensemble projects on the violist’s part to membership in bands like Steamboat Switzerland and Kalan Teban on the drummer’s. Meanwhile Trappist-1 is a one-off meeting between American violinist Mark Feldman and Spanish drummer Ramon Lopez, both of whom have worked in Barry Guy ensembles as well as in many other groups.

Besides emphasizing unexplored capabilities of multiple percussion add-ons with the viola’s distinctive tones, Fulguratio’s five tracks also includes vocal refrains from Hug, which are as startling as the duo’s instrumental techniques. Formally trained, the violist’s ability to create more animated and amplified sounds can make it seem as if two fiddles are improvising a half step apart. This concept is put to particular use on the concluding “Perlucidus”. Here Hug’s buzzing and swelling string inferences are complemented by her swallowed gurgles and barking war whoops that contrast decisively with Niggli’s hand popping and discordant percussion emphasis. Sophisticated in shading textures from attached and unattached small cymbals, from the first selection the drummer during these duets the drummer also never neglects the shuffles, ruffs and backbeat that motivate rhythmic flowering. His playing on tracks such as “Lacunosus” is both comprehensive and clangorous, building up from chunky, over emphasized beats to a constant pitter patter that is rhythmically attendant as well as smoothly spectacular without exceeding the bounds of taste. Meantime Hug’s string whistles and col legno stops, both formalist and futuristic, are broken up by wicked witch-like cackles and phlegmatic growls. Creating exploratory architecture with flying spicccato, squeaky strops and triple stops on the fiddler’s part, the percussionist’s ability to mold slaps, splatters and stomps into a conjoined narrative prevents the more avant garde ideas from pushing the duo into atonality.

Meanwhile the improvisations on the other CD manage to find a middle ground between Feldman’s sometime arch formalism and Lopez’s ability to meld Jazz kit and/or sub-continental tabla textures according to his musical needs. The violinist’s virtuosity is confirmed as early as “Trappist-1b”, the first track, as he swiftly slides from tonally perfect recital-styled sweeps to hoedown-like jiggles and stops to flying spiccato, without abandoning initial lyricism. All the while his speedy, angled dynamics are seconded by Lopez’s cymbal rasps and bell tolling. Variants of this unity continue throughout the session as the violinist’s kinetic triple stopping and other string feints and extensions never keep the percussionist from proper responses. Because Feldman’s boundless technical knowledge can be supple as well as surging, there’s no question that he can respond to drum prodding in multiple guises. For instance the rhythmic impetus is powerful enough on “Trappist-1d” with timed pulsating rat-tat-tats that the violinist challenges the interaction with stops so speedy that it appears as if two fiddles are in use, with the second decorating the jumps and judders of the first, but always following a logical exposition. Finally freylekhs-like emphasize single notes from the violinist work up the scale as Lopez’s bottom beats cushion the sequence. There are plenty of other instances of stops, swilling, sweeps and stretches from the two as Lopez moves among brushes, sticks and mallets and Feldman from arco to pizzicato runs. But the drummer’s most impressive display, on the track that demonstrates this duo’s originality and alliances is “Trappist-1f”. With one hand guiding his Western set up and the other pumping an affiliated tabla, the percussionist’s multiphonic elaborations lead the violinist to create a whiny tone equivalent to what is heard from the one-string fiddler common in Carnatic music. By mid-point the two manage a triple replication. The sequence suggests ecclesiastical timbres; a variant of raga-like rhythmic backing; – and since Lopez’s output also includes drum ratamacues plus cymbal shakes and Feldman’s fleet spiccato runs – a passionate modern Bollywood soundtrack. Oh, and as another bow to their improv roots, some reflections on a swing beat in this and the disc’s other tunes.

Contemporary musical internationalism helps account for the meeting of African and European instruments and modes on these discs. Plus the participants’ concepts and skills make the dates meaningful as well as particular listening experiences.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fulguratio: 1. Obliqua Fulmina 2. Rumbrum Spiritus 3. Lacunosus 4.Virga 5. Perlucidus

Personnel: Fulguratio: Charlotte Hug (viola and voice) and Lucas Niggli (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Trappist: 1. Trappist-1b 2. Trappist-1c 3. Trappist-1d 4. Trappist-1e 5. Trappist-1f 6. Trappist-1g 7. Trappist-1h

Personnel: Trappist: Mark Feldman (violin) and Ramon Lopez (drums)