Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tre Bassi; Spark

A couple of off-the-beaten track releases from my recent listening:

"De Profundis"
Tre Bassi; Hille Perl; Lee Santana; Michel Godard
[Carpe Diem]

The first impressive thing about this album is its opening: you don't know what century you're in, or what continent. This is the sound of the serpent, in fact, as played by Michel Godard, and when a bass voice begins to chant something Latin you might feel we're straying into Jan Garbarek/Hilliard Ensemble territory, but we're not quite. Tre Bassi is a group of, well, three basses. How much repertoire there is for this combination I'm not sure, but this collection combines music from rather unknown 17th-century composers (Ebner, Benevolo, Grandi, Mazák, Cazzati, Cifra, Gletle, Eisenheut) with some new compositions by Godard and Lee Santana. It's a rather bizarre mix -- with texts ranging from an Ave Maria to Santana's quirky "Mr. Ed": "Skinner, Hemingway, Ogden Nash/smashing each others' balls on a billiard table/somewhere in your imaginary tropic of cancer/they are ruminating forth in the Devils Triangle/of Mary Tyler Moore/If you can't stand this,/who can?/You can't" -- but somehow it works because the sound-world remains the same throughout. This is the sort of album you can become very fond of. I think the term "Nereffid bait" is necessary. It's also my first exposure to the German label Carpe Diem, which has something of an ECM New Series vibe though without the expectation that you will genuflect in the presence of their awesomeness. Samples of "De Profundis" here.

"Downtown Illusions"
[Ars Produktion]

This quintet is, according to its own web site, "designing a new classical style, smashing the boundaries between various genres". I suppose the big novelty here is that along with violin, cello, and piano Spark brings two recorders. That in itself requires that the band do a lot of arranging of existing works and commission new music, and that's what we get on their debut album, which is a lot of fun. It kicks off with the hard-driving Harde Puntjes by "Dutch enfant terrible" Chiel Meijering and indeed ends (2 "bonus tracks" aside) the same way, with the piece now accompanied by a human beatbox; along the way we get a couple of pieces from Michael Nyman's Wonderland score, some works by contemporary composers I admit to never having heard of, plus Fauré, Bach, and Vivaldi. "Spark" is a most appropriate name, as there's great vitality and humour all over the album. The group has a bunch of videos up on Youtube so you can hear and see for yourself.
Here they are performing "Jack" by Michael Nyman (have you seen Michael Winterbottom's film Wonderland? You must).

(Those are Paetzold bass recorders, by the way)

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