You might recall Trio Scordatura in a preceding If, Bwana release – Assemble.Age! – but in this circumstance the album’s title clarifies since the very outset that the business has been pushed to another level. Indeed Elisabeth Smalt (viola d’amore), Alfrun Schmid (voice) and Bob Gilmore (keyboards and laptop) bring something special to this double whammy, enriching with a distinct human component Al Margolis’ “academically improper” compositional conceptions. The ensuing music is intelligently awkward and typically difficult to categorize, barring the creation of a “Bwana” label: rich in disruptions yet engrossingly (and economically) minimalist at times, comprising twisted details that, in a general context of rationalism, increase the amount of question marks each and every time the discs are spun.
The vocal factor is important throughout. The most challenging piece on offer – “The Tempest, Fuggit” – is centred around a mild dismemberment of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, extraordinarily performed by Michael Peters. Selected words get bent and stretched, certain sibilant traits are highlighted, the concomitant sounds intensifying the alarming sense of displacement transmitted by the whole track. Elsewhere – as in the opening “Gilmore’s Girls” – single female pitches emerge from the mix as to provoke first, dissuade later a listener willing to find a way through ambiguous harmonic environments.
The generation of subtle microtonal shifting is one of Margolis’ strong points: the CD is full of gradually altering agglomerations and manufactured choirs that appear, in a way, uncoloured – in spite of the fact that they’re made of relatively animate matters – while revealing a number of freakish attributes. We imagine creatures with a pale skin and eyes without pupils, heads turned towards the sky in a hopeless prayer for the advent of a cross-eyed god. When the voices are supplemented by string drones the ears reach the climax of pleasure, and we fully recognize If, Bwana’s hand in systems of massive contrapuntal blocks that, for some supernatural process, result light as a feather.