Saturday, January 31, 2009
Ferran Fages - al volant d'un para/.lel (Etude)
One general aesthetic notion that unfailingly fascinates me is what I think of as the "pendulum effect", that is, when a form or individual artists swings between one (ostensible) pole and another, picking up information from each and applying it across town, so to speak. So, an abstract painter might return to a kind of realism, but it will be informed from lessons learned in abstraction and, inevitably, emerge differently than it would have otherwise, generally reinvigorated. Fages, for a while now at least on his solo projects, has "returned" (I imagine he never left) to a kind of traditional approach, the guitar played as a guitar in a fairly tonal, very seductive manner, melodic after a fashion, intuitive. Quantifying exactly how it's different from what would have transpired had he not been involved in freer formats is, to be sure, a fool's errand, but one has the strong sense that it's the case. The pieces here are quite overtly beautiful, somewhat self-similar, Fages spending much time in the lower registers, brooding, allowing tones to hang, contemplating them with a certain melancholy. Take Bailey at his most tonal then up that tonality by 50% and you're in the ballpark. Lovely disc, well worthwhile.
Massimo Magee with Barry Chabala - Filter (Array Music)
There's relaxed and then there's relaxed. Magee trawls perilously near whatever the dividing line is (if it is) between purposive playing and, well, less than purposive playing. At least, so it seems to me here. If I don't listen closely, it sounds fine. If I do, I find myself wanting more cohesion, more intent. This may entirely be a failing on my part, seriously. This is one of those recordings that I wouldn't be at all surprised to return to in a few years and say, "Oh sure, of course, that's what was happening." For now, dunno. Two cuts here; on the first Magee is solo for some 26 minutes, with a bunch of noisemakers, some electronic, and a tape of himself on soprano sax recorded just prior. The often free/avant style of the sax bothers me on the one hand but, when sliced and diced, not so much. While there's some degree of layering, there's more a sense of a fellow wandering about the room, casually triggering this or not touching that, not very concerned as to the outcome. (Watch, I'll find out that the whole escapade was pre-programmed down to the second). Still, it's all about choice-making; the interesting thing for me, here, is that after several listens, I remain ambivalent about whether I think his choices were apt or if aptness isn't the relevant criterion. Barry appears (via long distance, non-synchronous playing, I believe) and adds some more "traditional" consistency with delicate notes amongst the Mageesian detritus. Intriguing disc....
Massimo Magee - Any Way You Slice It (Array Music)
Similar in some ways to the above, this one has a more linear character, more thoroughgoing structure, due in large part to the consistency of underlying, quietly noisy sounds and the more overt saxophonics (tenor and soprano) atop. Magee, in the notes, mentions using the recording itself as a kind of instrument, freely utilizing "start/stop/pause/rewind" which is apparent at several points. When the tenor, some 25 minutes in, launches into more traditional playing (David Murray-ish, that is) including, um, "Mack the Knife", it's more problematic, though I'd assume Magee acknowledges this and wants us to deal with it. Again, intriguing...
Both of Massimo's discs, and more, are downloadable from array music