Comme d'habitude, j'ai attendu cette dernière publication de Potlatch avec impatience. Car c'est bien un des rares labels en qui j'ai entièrement confiance - notamment depuis le duo Keith Rowe/Evan Parker. Sans compter que Ferran Fages et Angharad Davies, mais surtout Alfredo Costa Monteiro, sont des musiciens que j'aime suivre et que j'apprécie énormément. Seulement voilà, contre toute attente, pluie fine ne m'a pas procuré la claque habituelle. La surprise n'a pas été aussi grande qu'avec le chef d’œuvre de Lucio Capece ou le quartet Propagations par exemple. Un album pas vraiment conformiste, mais prévisible quand on connaît ces musiciens. Ceci-dit, je fais vraiment la fine bouche ici, car pluie fine reste tout de même un disque que je conseillerais facilement, et c'est peut-être mon préféré du projet Cremaster (pour l'instant en tout cas, car je ne les ai pas tous écoutés).
Formellement, il s'agit d'une collaboration à distance entre le duo espagnol Cremaster - soit Alfredo Costa Monteiro (dispositif électroacoustique, enceintes, guitare électrique) & Ferran Fages (dispositif électroacoustique aussi, et table de mixage bouclée sur elle-même) et la violoniste anglaise Angharad Davies. Pendant près de trois ans, les musiciens se sont échangés des fichiers musicaux, les ont assemblés, transformés, mixés, pour nous les offrir aujourd'hui sous cette forme. (Au passage, pluie fine est dédicacée à Simon [Reynell, je suppose])
Actuellement en fait, je suis plutôt gêné: comment aborder et décrire cette musique? Ceux qui la connaissent devraient comprendre j'imagine. Mais pour les autres, comment faire? Il s'agit d'un assemblage de larsens, d'objets et d'installations électroacoustiques, de tables de mixage en circuits fermés, et d'un violon. Une musique abstraite et corrosive, où la présence de Davies est entièrement justifiée dans la mesure où son jeu minimaliste, grinçant, lent, et agressif, correspond très bien à la musique du duo espagnol. Alfredo Costa Monteiro & Ferran Fages ont quant à eux produits des masses sonores qui progressent souvent par micro-évolutions, des nappes qui pénètrent l'intérieur même et les profondeurs physiques du son. Une exploration magistrale des phénomènes électroacoustiques. Et oui forcément j'ai envie de dire c'est abstrait, mais là où ils réussissent, c'est dans une volonté de garder certains repaires, de répéter des éléments, de ne pas nier la musicalité du bruit, et de donner une forme à ce qui n'en avait auparavant pas.
Et cette structure qui apparaît par moments, fondée soit sur la répétition, soir sur l'étirement d'une séquence sonore, nous fait pénétrer dans l'intimité même du son et des musiciens. Les formes nous aident et nous encouragent à embrasser le son en tant que tel, en dépit de ses propriétés souvent dures et repoussantes (notamment à propos des nombreux larsens et des sons abrasifs et abstraits omniprésents). Par moments - voir par exemple les quelques magnifiques minutes de conclusion basées sur des glissandos exceptionnellement émouvants - AAC, FF et AD nous plongent dans des territoires sonores étonnamment émotionnels au vu de leur abstraction. La plongée dans les confins du son n'est pas si aride, l'abstraction s'arrête pile poil au niveau de la froideur ou de l'aridité, et la musique se fait expressionnisme abstrait plutôt que simplement abstraite.
Une exploration méticuleuse et vertigineuse dans des territoires sonores durs et abstraits, mais l'abstraction sonore n'est pas exempte d'une grande sensibilité musicale et émotionnelle. Ça va loin, très loin, mais toujours avec sensibilité. Cremaster & Angharad Davies nous entraînent dans leurs intimes, abrasifs et minimalistes territoires sonores pour nous proposer une cartographie émotionnelle de leur collaboration. Et c'est un plaisir qui n'a rien de masochiste d'entendre cette musique dure, riche, sensible, profonde et puissante.
Julien Héraud l Improv Sphere l Décembre 2012
The delicately presented and softly titled Pluie Fine hauls itself slowly into earshot by its own disintegrating and dismayed bootstraps. Any promised moisture remains hidden, although traces of its presence are revealed through pervasive oxidation and corrosion of the soundscape. Creaking and rusting, the sounds of mournful heavy machinery lumber like a lost and groggy David Jackman.
We don’t just get clang and scrape, however. There is some deliciously crispy crunch and hiss action dusting proceedings to keep things tickly, not to mention many echoing oil-drum sonorities to satisfy the most booming requirements. A chance meeting of a welding iron and a fluorescent light bulb, abrasive, with a positive engagement and attack neatly belied by the album title.
There are some operational and instrumental similarities with the Luciano Maggiore & Francesco Brasini CD previously reviewed, but the differences between the two are quite instructive. Whereas the two Italians’ sound was thin and scalpel-like, wandering sometimes in a pool of anomie, this album by contrast feels thick and muscular with the crunch of overdriven pedals, the feedback feels braced in a chunky industrial mixer cabinet. The gestures here come thick and fast, also, and inventive pressure is maintained.
Angharad Davies’s violin becomes more identifiable as we progress through the album’s second track – ‘played’ in a more traditional sense, if you wish – but is woven solidly through the electroacoustic noise like cords of sinew. Dexterous and muscular reel to reel work adds more physical oomph at the end of this track.
By the final track of the album, set against a purple polluted drone the creaks and screeches have become more purposeful, limber, contiguous and rangy-limbed, prowling around their derelict factory hideaway with mischievously miscreant intent. Gas taps are turned on and off, steam escapes, detritus is lobbed through empty rooms.
Assembled over two years, which may account for its structural tightness, this pleasingly never sounds overly determined or drained by over-production. Like the Iron Man of Sabbathian legend come to life as a security guard in a surrealistic scrap yard, guarding against incursions and abrasions by a wandering-minstrel fan of the Third Ear Band, this album provides sprawling heaviness and canny textural juxtaposition aplenty. Fully-formed, punchy formlessness and dynamically composed improvised drones of significant coiled potential and energy.
Thomas Shrubsole l The Sound Projector l July 2013
Less fine rain, more of a seething stormy cauldron. Pluie Fine is a release three years in the making, the result of recordings swapped backward and forward between Cremaster, who are Barcelona based omni-musicians Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Ferran Fages and London based violinist Angharad Davies. Judging by the limited liner notes, it seems that the shaping of sounds into a composition took place in Barcelona, one assumes without Davies, who provided new sounds throughout the process, presumably in response to the gradually assembled work in progress.
The end result is three separate works that all share a similar, if not identical soundworld. The overall feel is of neatly, tightly intertwined wails and cries, some of which originate from the violin (but don’t necessarily still sound much like a violin) and some that come from whatever feedback/electronics/electromagnetic/otherwise sound sources the Cremaster guys put to use. There is something strangely sub-aquatic here- the cry of whales maybe, the deep, slow resonance of sounds travelling underwater, a heaviness to the sound. From the outset of the first piece Embrun we are presented with high pitched, yearning calls of one kind or another that overlap each other, a new one rising over the one before as they crash over each other like waves. The electronic sounds range between fizzing, buzzing abstractions, bassy growls and a feedbackish screeching not that dissimilar to Davies’ Welsh whale wails (sorry!). Ten minutes into Embrun things rise above the earlier simmer to a dense, perhaps aggressive mass of sounds from all directions, some dirtily grating, others distantly moaning, with the foreground always piercingly, occasionally viciously present. Its tough going for the listener at times, while each sound feels delicate, the way they mass together presents a claustrophobic approach at times that sets out to pummel into your skull and succeeds in doing so.
If the palette sounds used here is not necessarily anything new, what really makes this album a fine one is the way it is put together. There is a feeling of real consistency and purpose here. Often music put together in this manner sounds like the accidental collision of different sounds sent in from afar, but here the sounds have been carefully chosen, and then expertly woven together. The album took three years to make, but it sounds like over that period a lot of time was spent on the construction of the three tracks, knitting small parts into a cohesive whole. While the sounds here are wild and of the kind we would usually only expect to hear in an improvised, spontaneous work, Pluie Fine sounds tightly composed- concise and describing a clear narrative with all elements sounding like they have a deliberate part to play. Dark and often oppressively atmospheric, this is fine album indeed then, the work of strong musicians with an exceptional knowledge of their raw materials and the vision and skill to put them to use.
Richard Pinnell l The Watchful Ear l February 2013
Cremaster, the duo of Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Ferran Fegas, team up with London based violinist Angharad Davies for the latest release on Potlach, Pluie Fine. Prepared over a two-year span and employing prepared violin, ‘electro-acoustic devices ’and various other electronic means, the trio composes three tracks of magnitude and measure.
Though the album and track titles refer to variants of the French word for drizzle the qualities of sound they conjure do not translate that. It strays from such a vocabulary and instead draws biological parallels to something more humid than light. Something constant, dense and vaporous brought on by an oppressive heat.
The opening track, Embrun, introduces us to the swelling mournful tones Davies renders with her bow and strings, which bookend the work, paired alongside coalescing billows of electronic pulses and crackles. The introduction into the work is something quite stunning, though slowly the fabric rips, dismantled by vibrant feedback outbursts and electronic fissures, which are used extensively throughout. This configuration is a standout to an imposing composition.
Bruine, doesn’t hesitate starting off, it’s aggressive. Quickly we become enmeshed in throbbing electrical manifestations. Now the violin never seems to lose its touch with the strings, being taken over by short quick repetitive measures. These inhabit and corrode the remainder of the track, while Fages and Monteiro circuitry impose their emissions, piercing and scraping the setting until everything is inevitably frayed.
With the final track, Crachin, as throughout this disc we can align ourselves with previous traces of where they have been, only to be hoodwinked at the moment of encounter. The trio never falls into an easy footing, articulating how well this group works.
Having been already taken by the work of Angharad Davies through her contributions to the Another Timbre imprint and the solo and duo work of Fegas and Monteiro, this release is quite an accomplishment for the artists involved, as all three are in top form.
Mathieu Ruhlmann l Cut and Run l February 2013
Never known for superfluously amiable traits or warm welcomes in the sounds they generate as Cremaster, Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Ferran Fages are definitely not making new friends fast judging by the resolute propensity to ear-piercing shrillness characterizing the bulk of Pluie Fine, a long-distance coaction with Angharad Davies occurred via sequential exchanges of files. The three tracks are comparable in various aspects – the primary one being the consequence of preposterous doses of agglomerated ultra-acute pitches on the sensory receptors – but they retain a separate sense of forward-looking transmutation and careful development carried out in somewhat inhospitable milieus.
Embrun is the “wavering” opening piece, the combinations between overlying timbres made richer by discernible throbs and slight glissandos while sinister growls underscore the ceremony. This before the textural mass steers towards a phase of high-frequency destructiveness escorted by mutating drones beneath the surface. Think about a heartfelt mourning released amidst a bunch of chainsaw manslayers.
Bruine is even more incisive if possible, calling to mind everything from intense radio signals to torturing brain drills. The right quantities of string impurity and blistering foam keep things entirely challenging until the final minutes, the whole shifting to an orchestral Hades of sorts where monstrous unwilled chords empower the air with the kind of nerve-exciting molecular motility which is sorely missed in times of collective seeking of a counterfeit serenity.
While the ears are still ringing, here comes Crachin to finally give some space to the lower regions of the acoustic spectrum, the outset instantly summoning forth memories of David Jackman’s Organum. It doesn’t last: those evil, skinny-yet-noxious upper partials mingle intelligently to hit again – hard. At the third straight headphone listen this writer had almost decided that he’d become incapable of discerning a clear-cut edifice in the “score”, ended by a fabulously sloped chorale of uncertain origin. A clever move following that trauma was repeating the procedure subsequently to a couple of hours of rest: the speakers did their work, the room helping the venomous gas generated by the infinitesimal intervals to spread first, and tighten the clutch on the blessed victim’s frontal bone afterwards.
Massimo Ricci l Touching Extremes l January 2013
On Sei Ritornelli, the recent CD by the 300 Basses, Alfredo Costa Monteiro and two other improvisers extracted an impressively diverse array of sounds whilst each played an accordion. Here Monteiro, Ferran Fages and Angharad Davies accomplish the opposite; to extract highly consonant sounds from utterly dissimilar instruments. Monteiro and Fages, a couple of Barcelona residents who have performed together as Cremaster since 2000, play electro-acoustic devices (springs, walky-talky, and contact microphones attached to small items), feedback mixing board, and electric guitar. Davies, a Welsh woman who has been based in London for the past decade, plays acoustic violin. But the layered sounds on Embrun, the first of three quarter hour-long tracks on Pluie Fine (the titles all refer to drizzle), are so well matched that it’s a distraction to try and separate them. That high pure tone you hear might be electronic, or it might be bow against strings; that descending moan combines string and electronic tones so closely, they’re inseparable. If you’ve wondered what “electro-acoustic” means, here you have it laid out for you.
The sources of the sounds aren’t necessarily as important here as what the sounds do. Embrun and Bruine are studies in how closely clustered sounds can complement or disrupt each other by setting up interactions — beating tones or implied sounds generated by the sounding of two adjacent ones — so that it often sounds like more than three people are playing, even though what each person plays is pretty simple. In fact, long passages of Bruine sound quite like a satellite singing with a sawmill, their songs stitched together by subliminal Morse code transmissions. Crachin has the widest disparity of sounds; the violin threads a thin sheet of high frequencies in between thick blankets of static hiss and protesting metal. Most likely these sounds were generated spontaneously, that is, without a score, and this is the sort of record that gets labeled “improv” simply because it sounds complex and tune-free.
But this is not free improvisation. Cremaster and Davies sent the music back and forth between Spain and England, sharing ideas and assembling the music over the course of 22 months. If you prize improvisational methods over results, this approach might sound like cheating, but the outcome speaks for itself. This is tough and involving music, fat-free and full of surprise.
Bill Meyer l Dusted l January 2013
Cremaster is the well-established electro-acoustic duo of Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Ferran Fages, both from the Barcelona experimental music scene. While using electro-acoustic devices, they commendably claim to avoid effects, loops or prerecorded material—which certainly distinguishes them from many others active in a similar area. As a duo, their releases notably include Live at Audiograft (Consumer Waste, 2012) and Igneo (Cathnor, 2010).
Pluie Fine is distinctly different, as it integrates the duo with the London-based Welsh violinist: Angharad Davies. She is active both as an improviser and as a performer of contemporary compositions, typified respectively by two highly-praised 2012 releases, Outwash (Another Timbre, 2012) and Ist gefallen in den Schnee (Another Timbre, 2012).
Pluie Fine consists of three tracks, each clocking in at around the fifteen-minute mark. Rather than being improvised, the album credits indicate that they were composed, recorded and assembled between September 2010 and July 2012 in Barcelona, with violin parts recorded by Kostis Kilymis on March 2012 in Oxford. The album is the result of several exchanges of recorded material shared between Cremaster and Davies from 2010 to 2012, each piece having been built up from multiple transformations passing slowly back and forth between the musicians. All of which paints a fascinating picture of the creative process, one which seems akin to good improvisation, with ideas passing backwards and forwards between the musicians and slowly evolving towards a commonly agreed music; the only difference is the time scale—while improvisation happens in moments, this album was created over years.
But, whatever the process, the end result is three contrasting pieces, each with its own unique character and soundscape. So, the opening Embrun is smooth-flowing and ethereal while the higher frequencies of Bruine have a harsher edge and are not as easy on the ear, with the closing Crachin a happy medium between the first two. All three tracks display the time and effort invested in creating them; their separate strands fit together seamlessly, ebbing and flowing to make room for each other, but together forming a coherent whole which depends on each of them—if any strand were removed, the totality would be the poorer for it. The violin—prepared, as Davies often does—is entirely equal and compatible with the duo's electronics and, at times, could itself be taken for electronically generated tones. Altogether, the album makes engaging and multifaceted listening.
l All About Jazz l January 2013
A welcome drizzle indeed. Davies' violin is a fine choice to augment the gents of Cremaster (Ferran Fages, feedback mixing board, electro-acoustic devices and Alfredo Costa-Monteiro, similar devices, speakers, electric guitar). When listening to her music or that of Cremaster, words like "sandy" and "sere" often come to mind, but not so much dryness; there are always layers, some containing tinges of moisture, maybe a little clay...That clayey feel is front and center here in a recording suffused with fine timbres and just enough implicit structure to cohere over the long run.
How to describe? there's a kind of inexorable grind to it; retaining the desert imagery, I think of the giant sandworms of Arrakis, that they might have produced the sounds heard on embrun, the first track here. The resonant whine, amplified down cavernous, miles-long, grit-filled tunnels. The moans could be death throes or orgasmic sighs...wonderful piece, would love to experience its like in a live situation.
bruine is shriller and maintains a wavering but fairly consistent tone throughout. It's strong, though, and "little" things like the short washes of brushed cymbal-like sounds (I assume electronically produced) carry great weight, swathe the piercing tone in just enough chamois until it expands outwards, accumulating mass and detritus as it does so. Again, a fine work. Things grow somewhat more jagged with crachin, hard crystals jutting out from the side of those tunnels, gouging one's thighs, dust stinging one's eyes. As with much of this work, there's a vastness at hand, a massive volume of space created, odd given the seeming thinness of much of the sound material. I pick up a bit of the divine rawness of Xenakis' electronic work in this one.
pluie fine--excellent recording, perhaps my favorite from those involved, which is saying something.
Brian Olewnick l Just Outside l December 2012