The last few years have seen a fairly large number of releases from the Iberian crew, generally of very high quality. It's getting to the point where, if one is so inclined, it's perhaps becoming possible to talk in terms of ''progress'' or, at least, change in the music that makes it to disc. This may or may not be meaningful, ultimately, as aspects like development
might be absolutely beside the point, but there seems to be at least a little bit that's discernable on that front with the last few recordings that have come myway.
Most significant is the apparent spiraling away from quiet improv toward a fuller, richer and certainly louder exposition. While these musicians (and the four represented here are inarguably central to this scene) have always had something of a sand-in-the-plumbing feel to their work, an earthy, even grimy character that's been one of their most appealing attributes, it's brought to the fore on 'Octante'. The music seesaws between areas where the acoustic instruments hold sway and those where (presumably) Fages's mixing board and whatnot erupt into Lehn-worthy paroxysms of squeal 'n' splat. Three tracks, 22, 6 and 14 minutes long, the first quickly splitting seams, ratcheting into action like some steam-powered machine that hasn't seen oil in several decades, nosing through ill-lit corridors, emitting sensory blips to gauge
distances. Barberan and Costa Monteiro engage in some wonderful byplay, their texturally different breath tones forming an enticing fabric, Garcia's bowed rumblings beneath, Fages piercing through. The lulls still appear though they're briefer, the space they occupy more cramped. There's a decided tendency toward the harsh.
The relatively brief second track mixes bowed bass and trumpet that lend oddly alpenhorn-ish qualities with nervous patters and crinkles; less brash than the other two cuts but still pleasantly unsettling. The final piece opens in roughly similar territory rather soft, metallic washes of tones before a momentary descent into a bleak bed of static-infused subsonics. In olden times (well, by release standards anyway this was recorded in July, 2003), a stasis may have been reached at this point, the careful activity allowed to simmer for quite a while before the flame was turned off. Not now. The fuel is stoked and the flames start licking skyward. There are times when I'm reminded of a more intense, hyper-amplified variation on Xenakis's classic Concret PH, as pings and whangs ricochet across an increasingly confined space. It ends with a hellified, grating whine.
'Octante' is yet another fine, fine disc from a bunch of musicians who have yet to encounter any discernable limit. For listeners already into their earlier work, it's a no-brainer. I'd be interested to hear the reactions to this from the No Fun crowd, especially if they've no previously heard from this neck of the woods, as some of the work contained here abuts their grounds. Good stuff.
Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen