CHRIS COGBURN / BONNIE JONES / BHOB RAINEY – Arena Ladridos

Another Timbre

Two quiet improvisations recorded in Texas in 2010 for percussion, electronics and soprano saxophone, residing in a district of EAI that has become increasingly uninteresting of late. Nevertheless, Arena Ladridos reveals several qualities and deserves attention.

Intuition of movement, emergence of acoustic ectoplasms, subtle purring starting to identify the essential ground. At the very beginning Rainey is barely heard, not as much of a whisper indeed; Cogburn and Jones respond accordingly, almost imperceptibly. Unspoken pressure, anticipation, no hints to “lines” whatsoever. The grain is partially defined after five minutes or so, an understated rustle underlining frequencies that look into stillness without letting the outside world dictate the rules, although the risk does exist.

The musicians seek for a little unevenness, still maintaining total control on the dynamics. No need to boost the volume excessively for us, the greater or lesser level of audibility establishing the proportionality of our response; certain codes work better than others, though; physical inactivity is, at any rate, indispensable. The rattle deriving from tiny gestures introduces brief segments of more explicit noises, soon returning to near-silence, then to abrasive activities again. When actual pitches are emitted by the sax, it’s a rare event lasting few seconds. Interference and threadbare percussion define a short-lived “been there done that” period; subsequently, the soprano’s undertones move the focus on deeper levels. The interplay is acceptably open to suggestions, but no one really seems to be willing to lead.

In the second take the sounds are at times perceivable as concrete, yet the beauty always lies in the emaciated luminosity generated by hushed flutters, feeble upper partials and infrequent clean notes. The percussive action, now in evidence, contributes to increase the textural mass – or lack thereof – for succinct sketches of activity. Here, too, Rainey’s caressing murmur is the predominant, and most engaging colour. In this section we also experience the lone louder moment of the whole CD, a one-off swelling of tension, quite significant amidst the previous (and following) infinitesimal progress. At large, the performance recalls the preparation to a secret procedure, slightly disturbed by apparently insignificant contrasting events that instead weigh a lot in the economy of the music.

Overall, an exercise in restraint not classifiable as “groundbreaking” but pretty substantial nevertheless, as opposed to the aggravation elicited by a sizeable portion of comparable products.

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