cinq bruissements for solo accordion
Rarely has an instrument been so savagely wrested from the grip of its history. The fey Parisian cafe serenaders, the raffish Gypsy troubadours, even Pauline Olivero’s serene meanderings – Portuguese improvisor Alfredo Costa Monteiro pulverises them all in a rush of wind, a blizzard of shrieking hinges and clouds of copper tone. Those familiar with Costa Monteiro’s accordion work wont’ be surprised to hear such intemperate sounds – produced, no doubt, with the help of some very close miking – coming from a squeezebox. But it took me a few listens to realise that Cinq bruissements is built around a principle of antagonism- not of the listener, but of one sound by another. They’re constantly at each other’s throats.
The A side opens with a series of brusque chordal explosions. Rough enough in themselves, these are then defaced by nerve-shredding metallic howls, Costa Monteiro clawing at their faces with rusted iron gauntlets. He then surrounds a thread of air – bellows opening, slowly, deliberately – with a garden of delicious tortures: uneasy harmonies, a rugged bowing sound, more metal claws on blackboards. Nor is the flip any more genteel. A would-be pellucid drone is pestered by buzzing, like there’s a wasp trapped inside it, hurling itself angrily at the glass. Then another drone is protractedly twisted in and out of dischord by the introduction of noxious pitches. What’s interesting is that though these sounds grate on each other, they don’t grate on the ears.The overriding impression is of balance, not assault – of equilibrial bubbles of conflict as elegantly violent as a clash of shaolin masters.
Nick Richardson [The Wire]
One of the still relatively few accordionists to be heard really pushing the instrument in new directions, Alfredo Costa Monteiro will inevitably court comparisons with Pauline Oliveros in his pursuit of establishing an alternative, experimental language through the instrument. The Portugal-born/Spain-based artist is also known for his contributions to groups such as Cremaster (responsible for releases on the Antifrost, Absurd and Sound 323 labels), but made his first solo accordion recording in 2004 with his Creative Sources release, Rumeur. The release notes compare the sound of this music to "an array of bizarre analog electronics" and "minimalist tape music", but you might say it goes even further than that, often stretching the wheezy sonorities of the instrument towards unearthly timbres that defy the more expected, familiar logic of drone music and seem to probe away inside the device, revealing up-close amplified creaks and groans.
From 2006, in which our stalwart hero continues his assault on that most abused of instruments, the accordion. I would have guessed that the title had something to do with bruising, but in fact "bruissement" means "rustling", a modest enough term for what transpires here. The essential accordion-nature is never too far from the surface actually, even if it's being bowed, struck or otherwise manhandled. As in many of his past releases, Costa Monteiro's basic, deep musicality permeates the material no matter how brutal it may seem. It's harsh, unrelenting, tough and very good. Even with all the extended technique, perhaps the most successful track is the most straightforward, the final one, where deep drones abut, tangle and lie atop one another, this one smooth, that one guttural, this steady, that wavering. A wonderful piece, again brimming with the sheer musicality that makes Costa Monteiro on eof the most engaging musicians around. A fine recording.
Brian Olewnick [Just Outside]
... Costa Monteiro plays however an instrument himself, the accordion in this particular case of 'Cinq Bruissements'. Recorded already in December 2006, and the cover assures us that all sounds are acoustic, which of course is important to realize. I have no idea what unorthodox methods he uses to play his instrument, but there are times that this thing is like a noise generating box. It has a low, menacing sound at times, and it mixes well with the more upfront acoustic sounds. Maybe Costa Monteiro uses external objects to scratch on the accordion, like at the opening of one side or the other (no label info), or its a radical placing of microphones that gives this sort of effect.
Either way it makes a great record, totally unlike 'Aura', but still of great beautiful quality. Quite raw, but at the same time also quite delicate. Both the CD and the LP show entirely different sides to the work of Monteiro and both are simply very good.
Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly 758
The Spartan white sleeve with its fascinating numerical artwork is the perfect container for an essential album. Both creations are courtesy of Alfredo Costa Monteiro, a bright mind signified by ever-interesting gasps and sputters whose talent goes beyond painting and playing (he also creates conundrums and puns, and I wouldn't be surprised if he could cook better than many renowned chefs). Here the Portuguese guerrillero of intelligent noise is armed for the occasion with a mere accordion, and he does well to underline that "all the sounds are acoustic" on the album cover. Most of us know what the guy is capable of with a single machine (years of aural attacks, alone or with sympathetic allied forces of Ferran Fages and Ruth Barberàn, have trained us well), but those arriving in ACM's universe for the first time might be surprised to learn that these irksome wheezes, raucous clusters, phobic flies buzzing round a tree hung with cymbals in a field of bitter drones come from the same apparatus that rendered the names Oliveros and Klucevsek famous. Ample proof of the experimental ingenuity that lies behind the freshest discoveries in the realm of improvised investigation of a specific sound source.
Massimo Ricci, Paris Transatlantique
A fifth night of writing about vinyl then leads me to Cinq Bruissements a new solo disc of accordion improvisation by Alfredo Costa Monteiro. I say new, because the release has only recently appeared on the No Fun Productions label, but the music was recorded back in 2006. The music here is all acoustic, and unprocessed in any way, so we just hear Costa Monteiro making sounds directly with his accordion, though it is easy to see why he felt the need to include a line on the sleeve stating that all sounds are acoustic, as quite often the sounds here have a grittily electronic feel to them. Its been a while since I saw Alfredo play accordion, but I seem to remember him adding metal objects and bowing and scraping the body of the instrument to create some of the sounds he makes. Certainly there is a wide array on display here.
From the outset of Side A we get a series of short blasted sounds that certainly feel like accordion notes but have an added edge to them, initially just a brittle quality but then wildly distorted metal sounds as (I think) something small like a hand cymbal is scraped across the instrument as it blasts its ugly sounds. The opening minutes continue in this vein, quite brutally raw and direct, but also intensely vibrant. These first few attacks capture your attention well and truly. A bruissement, translated from French means something vaguely like a rustling sound, a quite harsh, brittle noise, and so the title describes tho music well. It may be that there are actually five tracks here as well, as there are certainly one or two slightly elongated silences on each side that are followed by slight changes in playing style, but if so nothing is noted on the sleeve, so I can’t be sure.
It could be that there are three tracks on the first side, and if so the middle piece is a less fractious, but no less noisy affair. Here there is almost always something sounding, mostly a kind of smooth scraping sound, or perhaps just the instrument wheezing away with something disrupting its air flow. Although still a million miles from Brian Eno, this ‘track’ is calmer than the first, and doesn’t feel like it is about to attack you if you stray too close to the speaker. The third piece then is softer still, opening with glowing bowed metal type sounds that swell and fall in relatively quick patterns but slowly beginning to slow and soften slightly, so the rough edge of the music is supplanted by a feeling of gentle breathing and steady undulation. On this track again we are reminded that its an accordion we are hearing, as that very particular feel to the tones is present again, but used for music so unlike what we are used to hearing an accordion attached to, it all feels a little disembodied in a good way.
The second side maybe contains the other two tracks, a harsh chain of vibrations made as metal items touch against something shuddering, and a longer, slower droning piece that sounds like the accordion has been muted in some way so the blasts of tone feel blotted out and strangely buzzing in an early, roughly electronic manner. The drone is never just smooth, always full or warbling fluctuations and added elements, but the sound seems to remain constant throughout. The five pieces here then all have a very simply, elemental feel to them, just more examples of extended techniques applied to an instrument by a musician that knows it very well and has dedicated large amounts of time and energy to sourcing new ways to perform with it. There is a directness, and curiously a very personal feel to this music, almost like a sculpture that has the artist’s fingerprints left on it. The contact between Alfredo Costa Monteiro and his accordion feels very important to this album and is present throughout. Compared to his first solo accordion release, Rumeur, recorded three years earlier than this one and released on Creative Sources, the music has a harder, perhaps more fierce feel to it, but it is also very listenable, and Cinq Bruissements is a release that should please the majority of those that invest their time with it.
Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
C’est lors d’un récent concert parisien du trio 300 Basses, que je suis tombé sur un exemplaire de cette intrigante production d’Alfredo Costa Monteiro. Que pouvait-il donc bien faire sur No Fun Productions aux côtés de Merzbow, CCCC, John Wiese ou bien Thurston Moore ? Qui plus est avec ce qui paraissait être un solo d’accordéon…
L’écoute du disque me révélera finalement qu’il n’y avait là rien d’incongru, et que la publication de ces enregistrements sur un label très orienté Noise se justifiait d’elle même.
Là ou 300 Basses explorait l’interaction des techniques étendues sur l’accordéon, ici c’est l’instrument lui-même qui est exploré dans ses tréfonds les plus intimes, les micros étant placés au plus proche, voire dans ses entrailles (d’après la brève notice publiée sur le site du label). Bien sûr, on n’a pas ici de la noise à part entière, mais une musique où l’instrument est poussé dans ses retranchements les plus extrêmes, jusqu’à se faire oublier dans les multiples triturations dont il fait l’objet. L’accordéon, s’il perd son statut, sa culture traditionnelle, s’exprime ici pleinement comme un générateur de sons passionnants.
Ces cinq bruissements ne sont finalement pas si éloigné du travail électroacoustique d’Alfredo Costa Monteiro, par exemple au sein de Cremaster. La mise en perspective des divers enregistrements que j’ai pu écouter de ce musicien montre que celui-ci semble creuser un même sillon, parmi les plus passionnants que l’on puisse trouver actuellement dans le monde des musiques expérimentales.