Kendra Steiner

With Manitas, Ernesto Diaz-Infante pushes us back to the initial era of Touching Extremes, of which he was a regular booster through a slew of recordings alone or in the company of fellow improvisers working in, around and outside the Bay Area. After a number of more recent releases built on the captivating vibrancy of jumbo-bodied tools (bajo sexto or 12-string), this one focuses on the nylon string guitar. The inventive relationship of a single man against differently resonating machines usually constitutes an interesting study; this album – reportedly influenced by Cecil Taylor’s Air Above Mountains – is no exception.

However, I find Diaz-Infante’s sonorities slightly closer to, say, Elliott Sharp’s freeform acoustic guitar (minus Sharp’s ever-detectable mathematical logic) than the immortal pianist. The Californian’s manipulations join a somewhat disordered resistance to convention with his own individuality; in case you ask, segments of relatively quieter strumming make a brief appearance here, too. Where analogous efforts might be struck by the virus of creative infertility – there are so many examples in that sense – Ernesto’s innocence is what ultimately convinces us to persist, including instances where individuating “reliable” threads inside the playing becomes less easy.

Indeed, the artist himself declares of having privileged the automatisms of unconsciousness to justify the nonattendance of what our expectation describes as “organization”. We’re greeted, escorted and waved goodbye by bunches of discordant upper partials, involuntarily muted pitches, lawless oscillation frequently turning into sheer noise and stronger punctuations emerging from time to time. The lone “chords” detected are those born from the union of an interior flow with the body and the mechanisms of a responsive agglomeration of woods, metals and synthetic materials. Just stay there for a while, strip the intellect of its demands, and relish the colors.

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