The performance is split into three sections of pronounced activity, bracketed with quiet
tactile cracklings emerging from silence. In each of these sections, rarefied tones echo
through magnetic hums and muffled howls, looking as if they build as a gradual crescendo; however, Monteiro upends these trajectories with harsh bursts of sibilant noise and scabrous metallic scrapings. The interplay between all of the sound elements is both cryptic and dynamic, while never overworked through effects or treatments. Electroacoustics in fine style.
Jim Haynes, The Wire
Today’s CD is another solo release from Alfredo Costa Monteiro then, this one called NYX, a new release on the seemingly relentless London label Entr’acte. As I wrote quote recently when reviewing Costa Monteiro’s disappointing (for me at least) Aura disc, he covers quite some range of music and instrumentation. This particular piece, which I enjoyed a lot more, is a live recording of a work for turntable and environmental recordings. Here, Costa Monteiro blends pre-recorded turntable sounds with live manipulations of the same tool, and adds the carefully selected field recordings, which are mostly of the abstract, unidentifiable variety in a manner that for reasons I just can’t fathom makes me think of a chef blending the ingredients to a favourite meal.
According tot he Entr’acte notes on the disc, the music “attempts to convey the telluric forces present in darkness.” OK so I had to look up telluric in the dictionary, but was pleased to find that it meant “of the soil” as the music here does have a very dense, earthy feel to it. NYX is a tense, nervous affair that often breaks out into really very violent moments of sharp, abrasive noise. For the most part the sounds we hear are subtle, gentle lulls and rumbling, growling textures, but these stop and start in slabs, which feel almost randomly placed like a small child’s building blocks. Every so often though a brittle, barbed crackle might rip across the textures, or a sudden hit of white noise will appear, often cutting dead as sharply as it began, leaving deep hollows in the music in the spaces they vacate.
There is a deeply angry feel to this thirty-seven minute piece, but rather than building steadily into the usual all-out assault that noise music often slides into, NYX stops and starts, broods and sulks, luring the listener into a false sense of safety before hitting them again. The sounds here are mostly familiar, grainy static and electroacoustic hisses, the sound of a turntable cartridge passing over rough surfaces, the whine of feedback and the uncertainty of electronic screeches but the intensity of the music comes from the construction of the work, which is carefully composed to make the most of the jarring effect that each sound enters and exits with.
I suspect that this performance might have been even more impressive in person, as the sounds heard here feel a little compressed by my stereo system, and set free and raised to room filling levels they may well have been quite terrifying in places, but as I write this a particularly quiet gurgle of muddy sound drifts past that leaves an unnerving sensation behind even at barely audible levels.
If Costa Monteiro set out to portray something of the depth and qualities of darkness then he has achieved it here. Listening carefully is a bit like wandering around unfamiliar narrow streets in the dark. Every little sound alerts you, everything feels alive, and turning a corner to be suddenly faced by a dramatic noise, as happens several times in this album frightens you out of your skin. Maybe not one for those of a nervous disposition then, but an enjoyable ride for the rest of us.
Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear