ALFREDO COSTA MONTEIRO + BEN OWEN – Frêle À Vide

Contour Editions

Take a look at the array of sonic generators that Costa Monteiro and Owen employ in Frêle À Vide before analyzing the remarkable effects that the resulting music achieves on a listener’s sense of balance over the course of four segments. As a matter of fact, the sources include walkman feedback, radios, amplifiers, tone arm and mixer; but should someone start thinking about a chaotic concoction, the truth has never been so distant. The general impression is one of complete control, both on the acoustic dynamics and the direction to which shifting masses are pushed in an environment saturated by ear-clogging tones. Different types of altered stillness are examined by the duo, with a privilege for meagre clusters of pitches possessing a peculiar harmonic richness even when they don’t move at all. The wrecking potential appears to some extent limited by the intentions of the very designers; think of a charged hostility if you will. Also appealing is the combination of opposites – acute stabs and humming buzz, starkness and malleability – which finds a natural accomplishment in the third track (all pieces are indicated as “Sans Titre”). Here the tendency to nuclear eeriness is manifested through painstaking parabolas scarred by overdriven stridency, in a way recalling an atmosphere of metropolitan conflict. Everything sounds unsettling and beautiful at once, the representation of opposite forces that – for inexplicable reasons – produce stimulating energy from the gathering of smothering frequencies. An excellent album, surely going to be appreciated by those who treasure John Duncan’s output circa Phantom Broadcast, or the more “in your face” idioms produced by Toshimaru Nakamura’s no-input mixing desks. Its psychological momentum increases with each new listen.

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