One of the most ambitious of Entr'acte recent releases is Alfredo Costa Monteiro‘s 40-minute electronic work Insula. Originally created as a multi-channel spatialised composition heard through no fewer than 192 speakers and 12 subwoofers,
the piece has evidently lost none of its broad scope in this stereo reduction. Monteiro’s language is indefatigably synthetic, his palette of sounds raw, from which he forms tight bands and clouds of beating frequencies, sometimes eye-wateringly astringent.
Unlike so many composers of electronic music, Monteiro allows his material plenty of time to speak, which in turn gives the listener time to scrutinise their qualities in considerable detail. This adds conviction to the steady evolution that Insula undergoes,
passing from insect-like pitches to industrial drones and noise, from upfront and personal dynamic affrontery to subdued middle-distance time-biding.
Monteiro describes the work as one for electric organ, and that point of origin becomes much more apparent in the second half, where austere chords penetrate the shimmering and bring it into focus, and later hovering in an uncanny sequence of wavering lines.
But noise regularly punctures whatever certainties pitch seems to offer, initially in a squalling harsh wall, and finally in a low throbbing band of something indefinable.
Simon Cummings. 5:4
This disc contains a 40-minute stereo version of a somewhat inclement multi-channel composition designed to work at full effect in its proper context: that is, a spatialization generated by a large number of speakers and subwoofers employing the Wave Field Synthesis technique during the playback.
Perhaps Costa Monteiro’s least “human” release to date, Insula is defined by constricting clusters in the overacute range, massive unresolved drones at times conveying an almost dictatorial disposition, and only distant remnants of the primary source. No escape whatsoever towards even the slightest hint of decompression as the music retains its uncomfortably glacial behavior.
The overall unfriendliness should not detract from the work’s value, securely set on the same high standards to which the composer has grown us used to. In recent years, Costa Monteiro seems to have studied John Duncan and Iannis Xenakis quite a lot: the vibrating physicalness suggests imageries between celestial and nuclear, striking apexes and quieter sections finely mingled. In spite of a lack of commonly intended harmoniousness – I’m referring to untrained ears, needless to say – one enjoys the plasticity of the resonating structures and the incisiveness of the processed organ’s upper partials. A state of imperturbable vigilance – enhanced by frequencies whose richness is proportional to their severity – is ultimately reached.
Beyond the hypocrisy of elite radicalism tinged with unthreatening sounds, solely focusing on the implicit meanings – and, why not, the quiet menaces – of emissions that do not necessarily look for an approval, Insula represents a brave attempt to express something less predictable than usual in the overcrowded area of today’s psychoacoustic investigation.
Massimo Ricci. Touching Extremes.
Reviewed back in October, Monteiro throws down the gauntlet with his 40-minute electronic work, Insula; getting through the first eight minutes takes some tenacity, as the music is filled with piercingly sharp high frequencies, jostling and juddering against each other. Eventually, though, the music expands into more industrial, noise-centred materials in a carefully-controlled evolution that culminates in stomach-wobbling deep throbs. Fabulous.
Simon Cummings. 5:4