Nero’s Neptune

Davu Seru: drums; Milo Fine: piano; Paul Metzger: banjo; Didier Petit: cello, voice

A vinyl testimony (limited to a 100-copy edition) of an evening of February 2012 at Black Dog in St.Paul, Minnesota. Four tracks that leave no hope to the immoderate pleasures of easygoingness, the interactions occurring among the quartet’s members unambiguously regulated notwithstanding. Each of the improvisations focuses on dynamic and contrapuntal aspects that render them individually notable, almost to the point of attributing a somewhat impermanent “mode” to the different parts on the spur of the moment.

“I’m Guessing Not” presents the most “lyrical” scene: instant chamber music, to a degree, mainly the consequence of the forward-looking parallelism of Fine’s piano and the bowed strings (Metzger’s banjo is often played with the arco). “Glaucous” is a little more riotous and rhythmically tangled, ending with a literally unbound Petit screaming mercilessly, Japanese warrior-style. “Waiting, Waiting, Waiting… The End” is built upon a series of tensely germinating correspondences between the instruments that seemingly were never destined to a normal settlement; the sonic communion ends in abrupt fashion, leaving us quite puzzled. The conclusive “On The Meticulous Eradication Of Unwanted Artifacts” summarizes, in a way, the group’s aesthetics by giving equal value to every colour of the palette in an astute investigation of the interrelationships produced by the respective individualities, their instrumental organization and the surrounding space’s reactivity.

As far as the single voices are concerned, Seru’s drumming makes use of all the constituents of his set but is not aggressive: indeed, restraint and modesty appear as the keywords as he supervises the processes without being noticed, enhancing the collective vibe via untraceable snare taps and soft tom rolls. Fine – whose brilliant handling of the piano has always been my favorite trait in his output – offers a contribution where, for a change, a relative composure frequently accompanies the action, though he’s certainly ready as ever to raise hell on various regions of the keyboard when necessary. Metzger represents the caustic element in this case, the banjo – for its very nature – as the carrier of mordant frequencies and uneasy clusters that propagate just enough to immediately generate the due amounts of clangor with the rest of the components. Petit’s cello is equally non-tranquil, persevering across a logic of semi-melodic perturbation with an attentive ear to its adaptability inside the interplay.

The whole album – its memorization, even after successive listens, practically unfeasible if not for vague recollections of “moods” and a transmitted sense of non-indulgent flexibility – is permeated by the kind of connectedness which we expect from a nucleus of musicians at these depths of insight. Challenging, intelligent and – above all – devoid of redundant furbelow, cover art included.

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