Alfredo Costa Monteiro




Enregistrée en novembre 2008 et finalisée entre 2009 et 2010, cette pièce d’Alfredo Costa Monteiro joue sur des sons de percussions où l’attaque a été effacée pour ne garder que les résonances. Et ensuite essayer de composer avec cette absence. C’est d’une part l’expérience de la cloche coupée de Pierre Schaeffer et d’autre part une réflexion sur les écrits de Walter Benjamin. ‘Un déplacement de l’ici et maintenant de l’œuvre à un ici et après, comme un effet dont la cause aurait disparu… ce qui est aussi une métaphore de l’enregistrement, un produit sans aura, mais je crois avec une toute nouvelle force, celle de pouvoir redonner à l’écoute un nouveau contexte, à chaque fois différent…’ (A. Costa Monteiro). Fantômatique, nocturne et tout simplement excellent.
Jérôme Noetinger, Metamkine


The credit for the composition (and thus on the cover) goes out to Alfredo Costa Monteiro, but the instrument, percussion in this case, was played by Pilar Subira. On the cover we read: «Each recording has been edited, cutting the attack, at the point where the impact disappears and the harmonics start, keeping only the natural resonance and decay of the sound.»
From two hundred recordings these ‘beyond attacks’ were saved and selected and then slowly build into this one piece of music. It has nothing or at least very little, I guess, to do with percussion music. Only in the final part of the work, say the last ten minutes, one could say that this is a percussive work and rather sounds like a gentle piece of carefully processed sinewaves, except that these are not sine waves nor it is processed in anyway. The acoustic sounds glide in a natural way and over the course of fifty minutes build up in quite a dramatic way, moving from one area to another, constantly changing color anddirection.
A minimal work but also one of great beauty and perhaps not that minimal, with all the microscopic, detailed changes.
An excellent work which can be relaxing or demanding – you can choose your own approach.
Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly 758


Actually something of a duo as the source sounds for «Aura» were performed by percussionist Pilar Subira, the results edited by Costa Monteiro so as to cut «the attack at the point where the impact disappears and the harmonics start, keeping only the natural resonance and decay of the sound.» [Costa Monteiro’s notes]

Given that, it’s not surprising that what one hears is a sequence of hums resulting, often from bowed metal, at some times silvery and glistening, at others dark and foreboding. There are a couple of brief volume surges but by and large, we’re talking quiet, rich, acoustic drones. At 51 minutes, it palls a bit if one is listening very attentively, but it works fine as a domestic aural tinge. Not my favorite work from Costa Monteiro by any means–I think I prefer when he balances between this kind of area and brutalism–but not bad.
Brian Olewnick, Just outside


This Portuguese improvisor was, for me, one of the 2010’s most exciting discoveries, his fantastic solo accordion record Cinq Bruissements an under-trumpeted highlight. On AURA, a single, hour-long piece, Costa Monteiro explores a less abrasive register at a more leisurely pace – nevertheless, it’s similarity fascinating. Suspended, shivering gongs recede to lustrous clusters with the patience and attention to microtonal detail of a kevin Drumm drone epic. Ten minutes before the end Costa Monteiro starts striking his bass gongs with shorter martellati before baring his teeth for a brief sequence of rasping percussive grimaces. Then back to sombre quiescence.
A careful and effective piece from this remarkable musician.
Nick Richardson, The Wire.


Aura (ETUDE 021) is an excellent process piece put together by Spaniard King of Austerity Alfredo Costa Monteiro. It’s constructed from numerous recordings of the percussion instruments of Pilar Subirá, and in making his assemblages Alfredo worked only with edited segments of tape where the “point of impact” has been removed (meaning, I suppose, that we can’t hear the percussive blow), leaving him with long stretches of resonance and decay. He seems to have entered a near-trance as he layered together these episodes, labouring at the electro-acoustic Movieola and finding consonances and correspondences in the most subtle and imperceptible of detail. If he was doing this as a housepainter, I can imagine him working through all the available combinations of 65 slightly different rolls of off-white wallpaper. He’d come up with such a perfect schema for your living room walls that you would immediately enter a state of ecstasy simply by the act of entering the room. Not exactly an “eventful” listen, nonetheless it’s a much more solid and distilled piece of gentle droning purity than if he’d arrived at it through purely digital sound-generation methods.
Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector


A few years back now, there was a 3? release on Cathnor called After Hours by Mark Wastell. The disc consisted purely of the sound of a tubular bell being struck, but with the initial attack digitally removed so that only the swell of slowly decaying was left to be heard. What I liked so much about that recording was its simplicity and singularity, a very simple sound repeated a few times that created a very particular mood for anyone caught in its aural headlights.

I have been listening the last few days to a newish release by Alfredo Costa Monteiro on the Etude label named Aura, that uses a very similar technique to create the sounds that make up the composition. Although the album is credited on its spine just to Alfredo, it seems that all of the percussive sounds used on the disc were played by Pilar Subira, whose output was recorded by Costa Monteiro, who then smoothed off the initial attacks from each sound and composed this fifty-one minute long work from them.

For the bulk of this release then, we hear soft, pulsing tones created from striking metal objects that have chimed smoothly. Costa Monteiro has then blended these into a slow moving, somewhat amorphous stream of blurred metal sounds that is really very reminiscent of the dark ambient / isolationist mini-movement for the mid nineties that at the time captivated my attention. Today though, I’m not sure that this kind of strangely ritualistic drift appeals to me anywhere near as much as it did then, and for much of this disc I have to admit my attention wandered after listening through once or twice. For the first three quarters of the release the sounds heard are mostly quite pure in tone, clearly the result of percussive attacks, but still divorced enough from the energy of struck metal to have an ethereal, floating-in-mid-air feel to them. A multitude of sounds are used and then layered together to create the piece, and it is probably this added complexity, the step away from the simple study of a single decaying tone that leads me away from the reasons I enjoyed After Hours so much more.

At the forty three minute mark though, things suddenly change, with a dramatic shift in the sound that really made me jump on the first close listen through. Although there had been a couple of little hints around the half hour mark, when the intensity of the attacks had increased quite suddenly, the shift in sounds at forty-three minutes still takes you by surprise and suddenly makes the piece far more interesting. At this point the sound leaps up in volume, but also the tones we hear are not so pure, and instead are rasping. rattling metallic tones, multitracked many times over to create a dense, highly detailed set of dying sound, as opposed to the more washed out feel of the earlier sounds. This new shift in dynamic and texture only lasts the eight minutes remaining of the track, but it lifts the recording no end. Perhaps the sounds here wouldn’t sound so fresh and vital if they hadn’t followed the less vibrant sections before them, and as the music had really slipped into a sullen murmur of deep tones before the sudden jump then perhaps the change became more marked, more obvious, but it really does have quite an impact when it arrives. Particularly if you didn’t know it was coming. Which you now do. Damn…

Aura (the name doesn’t help the washy ambient connections much) is just one recording from a musician who has released a ridiculously wide and varied body of work that has extended from solo recordings for accordion, electronics and turntable to sheets of paper. Costa Monteiro is a highly talented individual that releases an awful lot of material, but this disc, or at least the first forty-three minutes of it, ranks some way down the pecking order for me. I have another new solo awaiting my attention here as well. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that one wasn’t completely different again and maybe much more to my liking.
Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear


As the title implies, this is music of ample halos and untainted reverberation. Ghosts if you will, or mere psychological suggestions, generated by the superimposition of echoing phenomena within a silent background, the ideal situation in which the record should be approached (the composer recommends a “nocturnal” time for that; an opaque Sunday afternoon worked fine, though). The sources: over 200 takes of percussion instruments – all played by Pilar Subirà – from which Costa Monteiro cut the attack off, leaving the resonant properties and the decays for our ears to catch and observe during the fadeout. The compositional endeavor resides in the development of a strategy to make the most, sonically speaking, of a few of the innumerable combinations and superimpositions of the raw materials (that’s why the piece is scored for “percussion and recordings”).

The spectral character of Aura constitutes its very quintessence: there’s no processing whatsoever, electronics also missing. Just different kinds of radiance, interspersed with weighty stillness. Some of them were born in the acute regions, perhaps with a measure of bowing in certain circumstances; others clearly derive from bigger specimens – gongs, tympani – thus appearing of more robust constitution but endowed with the same potential, that of eliciting acoustic pictures of luminous events symbolizing a severance from reality. Only at the 43rd of the 51 minutes the entrancement is broken by the appearance of a series of relatively violent crashes. The lone loud divergence in an otherwise spellbinding and, dare I say, isolationist album, showing yet another creative side of this versatile craftsman.
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes