Tuesday 28 July 2009
Lisbon-based guitarist Manuel Mota raised some interest a few years back with his solo release Leopardo on the Rossbin label. That recital on solid-body electric guitar revealed a young player searching out ways to personalize the vocabulary of solo guitar, with a particular nod to the area charted by Derek Bailey.
This new release on Mota’s Headlights label finds him in the company of three other like-minded players for a set of nine concentrated collective improvisations: trombonist Fala Mariam, bassist Margarida Garcia, and percussionist César Burago. Mota has chosen his collaborators wisely, matching his brittle, spiky lines with Mariam’s grumbling trombone smears, Garcia’s sparely placed resonant bass, and Burago’s chiming metallic counterpoint. (Though Burago is credited as playing carillon, it sounds more like a mallet instrument such as tubular bells or marimba.) The minimalist title and spare pencil drawing on the cover match the music perfectly.
Here are four players well-versed in intimate improvisation built off of linear interplay, cross-cut textures, and the careful balance of sound and space. This is music with roots firmly in the old-school spontaneous collective improvisation navigated by Bailey and company for the past four decades. Each of these players has honed their technique, concentrating on focused attack with little sustain. Jagged shard-like lines are scratched across the sound space with a clear sense of deliberation.
There is always a careful placement of notes into the collective mix, with an ear toward densities and textures rather than propulsive movement or dynamic arc. Mota’s precise finger-picked notes are sounded and damped. Garcia’s electric upright bass projects her plucked and bowed gestures stripped of any acoustic resonance. Mariam accentuates rounded smears, blats, and rumbles, judiciously using mutes to distance the aspects of breath from her horn. Burago is also careful to strike his instrument and then damp or mute the attack, placing the bell-like tones with a fastidious attention to timbre and decay of sound.
The recording balance picks up every gesture and nuance, switching a bit from cut to cut. Some of the pieces are close-miked, placing all the instruments up front in the mix. Others utilize a wetter, more spatial sound, which places the instruments a bit further back in the sonic plane, allowing the sound of the room to enter into the mix a bit more. Though there is a certain sameness that pervades the recording from piece to piece, the clarity of intent and vision is always evident and ultimately prevails. Michael Rosenstein
2. Mean Dry Land
3. Flame Street
5. Good Eve
6. Deep in Your Face
7. A Blue Cross
Manuel Mota - electric guitar
Fala Mariam - alto trombone with fh mute
Margarida Garcia - electric upright bass
César Burago - carillon
Arranged and produced by Sei Miguel.
Released in 2004 by Headlights.