CHRISTOPH GALLIO / BEAT STREULI – Road Works

Percaso

Christoph Gallio: alto & soprano saxophones; Andrea Neumann: inside piano, mixer & piano; Ernst Thoma: synthesizer; Dominique Girod: double bass; Julian Sartorius: drums; Beat Streuli: visuals

Gallio and Streuli – the latter’s high-definition metropolitan imagery is featured in the DVD incorporated by this 2-disc set – proceed to the second subdivision of their cooperative production after Hits/Stills. In this juncture, too, the music is “formally” shattered – in 72 shards, to be specific – but instead of employing a solitary tool the composer opted for a small cast comprising at least two interesting variables. One is Thoma’s synthesizer, often the most prominent color in the overall palette and – not rarely – a supplier of mysterious fumes, odd purrs and eccentric “weeoows” (several pieces also include samples). The other crucial factor is Neumann’s pianism, ranging from pensive empiricism to ordinary accompaniment of progressions that appear excessively “normal” and easygoing to let me believe that there is no sarcasm in there.

For sure, Gallio does recognize irony as a valuable component of his work (*). A few of these pills might be thought as abbreviated Eno/Roedelius outtakes, spaced-out melodies and electronic impulses cuddling the hearer. More blatant intermissions modify the intensity level inside the instrumental action, then give room to facetious clichés and formulas, lounge-jazz played by cultured musicians who forgot they’re being paid by a Holiday Inn as they keep trying to alter/fragment the tempos (and use a hoarse cat as a singer, see track 35). Episodes where tension is induced via Zorn-like outbursts and precipitous interruptions are complemented by pseudo-African rhythms and sheer exercises, or perhaps a single, reiterated phrase/superimposition of tones (those are the moments I prefer: check tracks 1, 24, 25 and 71 for example).

Amidst all of this, Gallio, Girod and Sartorius are accountable for the permanency of a minimum of contrapuntal symmetricalness within a vibe whose nature is both elegantly mocking and mystifyingly classy. Fleeting occurrences modulate every fluctuation; the “shuffle” mode is a rather expectable listening alternative. Talking again about Eno, this music remains respectable even at attenuated volume, becoming an active complement in the room’s sonorousness yet still capable of commanding your attention at the due moment.

(*) Not so, apparently: in an email subsequent to this review, the composer wrote me that although he does value humor, irony is not meant to be the protagonist of these sketches, or his production in general. “I love clichés, cheap, normal and unspectacular things from the daily life. I use them with the deepest respect, trying to find depths beyond the appearance”. Thanks to Christoph Gallio for the explanation.

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