Three threes always

Sunday 2 April 2023

I don’t want to be nasty. Almost all the music I discuss here raises ideas that interest me and I want to engage with, even if I dislike it. I’ll usually delete the dismissive comments made in draft because I’m approaching these as an artist as much as a critic; nobody’s getting rich in this genre so there are no real mercenary or cynical efforts to dismiss as unworthy. Having said that, appreciating the craft of a piece of music is a different thing entirely from trying to give it the respect of considering it as a work of art. Keep this in mind if I carp that Bruno Duplant and Seth Nehil’s collaboration the memory of things doesn’t beat you over the head with attempts to be stunningly original in form or medium – most things don’t need to be. Not familiar with Nehil at all but Duplant’s work with him here has produced a trilogy of very slick aural collages, each about the same length, which allude to sounds rather than present them directly, much in the fashion pioneered by Brian Eno’s On Land. Anything too specific is overlaid with a patina of clicks and crackles, which will strike you as either too calculating to induce nostalgia or as a means to direct you away from ambient vagueness. It’s another marker of Duplant’s eclecticism in his musical practice, which values intellectual curiosity over a firm identity.

Les Capelles documents the very first time Garazi Navas, Miguel Angel Garcia, Àlex Reviriego and Vasco Trilla played together as a quartet.” I’m always dubious of these things where improvisers get together and expect some magic to happen right off the bat. It puffs the spurious ideals of spontaneity and authenticity that hamper improvisation as a medium. No matter how good it sounds, you always wonder how much it better it could have been after some more work together. The above quartet play accordion, electronics, double bass and percussion respectively, all in that evocative style where everything sounds electronic even though it isn’t until the accordion shatters the illusion. As with the Duplant/Nehil album, there are three pieces here of equal length and I would take it as a compliment to the depth of the acoustic performance that it took me a while to get stright in my head which album was which. They do not bore, and it’s all played in a chapel in Barcelona so it sounds lovely.

I’m listening to a set of three pieces all about the same length (again?) by Erik Blennow Calälv, with pianist/composer Lisa Ullén, Finn Loxbo on guitar with Ryan Packard on percussion and electronics to accompany Calälv’s bass clarinet. They’re all experienced and judicious improvisers, so I presume there’s an openness to the scores to allow the slow but free interplay that flows through each piece. Each piece – Bi, In yo & Iwato – is apparently based on a traditional Japanese scales, but what with the overall texture and Ullén’s prepared piano goddamn it sounds just like Magnus Granberg to me. I mean, that’s great and all, but still. The smaller scale adds to a more accessible intimacy, so if you’re pressed for time then this album’s a good way to get a surrogate Granberg fix in more manageable chunks.