Comme son nom ne l'indique pas, 300 Basses est un trio d'accordéonistes originaires de trois pays différents et pratiquant tous la musique improvisée de près ou de loin. On y retrouve Luca Venitucci, accordéoniste italien qui pratique l'improvisation multimédia et interdisciplinaire tout en étant membre de Zeitkratzer, Alfredo Costa Monteiro, un musicien portugais passionnant résidant aujourd'hui en Espagne, bercé dans les musiques improvisées et expérimentales, instrumentales et électroacoustiques, et enfin, Jonas Kocher, improvisateur suisse proche du netlabel Insubordinations.
Deux paramètres sont explorés durant les six pièces qui constituent Sei Ritornelli, l'interaction entre les trois musiciens d'une part, et l'accordéon lui-même. A propos de l'interaction, le principe semble assez simple: puisqu'il s'agit la plupart du temps de pièces aux structures linéaires, comme des sortes de drones, les trois musiciens axent leur interaction sur l'homogénéité et la fusion. On distingue parfois plusieurs niveaux, des strates se dégagent, mais sans hiérarchie, il s'agit de textures unifiées et homogènes, constituées d'une ou plusieurs strates égales.
Et quant à l'instrument, chaque pièce explore de manière systématique et méticuleuse un paramètre, un potentiel ou une possibilité de l'accordéon, que ce soit les bruits du clavier et des touches, le souffle de l'accordéon, la dynamique du soufflet, les préparations possibles à l'aide d'objets, les registres graves et sur-aigus, les accords, les notes simples et leur interaction. Et à chaque exploration, un univers nouveau et singulier émerge. Un univers vibrant, une respiration ou des cycles absorbants, des couleurs uniques, des textures denses et riches. Chaque potentiel de l'accordéon révèle une nouvelle possibilité musicale d'une part, une nouvelle ambiance et un territoire sonore inattendus, mais aussi une nouvelle façon de réagir entre chacun des musiciens.
D'accord, l'accordéon n'est pas un instrument très répandu dans les musiques improvisées et expérimentales, d'accord les trois membres de 300 Basses sont tous de tous de très bons musiciens, qui savent écouter et réagir en situation d'improvisation, même d'exceptionnels musiciens si je pense à la créativité de Monteiro, mais quand même. Jamais je n'aurais pensé écouter une musique pareille un jour, chacune de ces pièces nous plongent dans un univers sonore et musical épatant, intense, profond, et merveilleux. Des univers très singuliers, poétiques et inouïs, au-delà de ce que l'on pourrait attendre ou même imaginer. Chacune de ces pièces est régie par ses propres lois et possèdent ses qualités, chacune parvient à constituer un univers neuf, riche, complet et autonome. Il s'ensuit un putain de disque incroyable qui s'écoute sans que l'on se rende compte du temps qui passe ou qui est passé, un disque qui nous projette hors du monde et nous plonge au cœur même de son univers. Un disque jouissif et mémorable.
Julien Héraud l Improv Sphere l Juillet 2012
S’il est un instrument relativement peu représenté dans le monde des musiques improvisées, c’est bien l’accordéon. Constitué d’un soufflet alimentant des anches, doté d’un clavier, l’accordéon dispose pourtant d’un potentiel sonore intéressant. Cet instrument “populaire” – voire populiste – mérite-t-il donc d’être ainsi ignoré par l’avant-garde musicale ?
Le trio 300 Basses, constitué d’Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Jonas Kocher et Luca Venotucci tente ici de nous démontrer que l’accordéon a bien quelque chose à apporter au monde des musiques improvisées. Que les choses soient claires : il n’y aura que le son de l’accordéon – modifié par quelques objets – sur ce disque. Et l’exercice est plutôt convaincant, tant le spectre sonore parcouru dans ces six ritournelles est vaste.
On passera des infra basses aux sonorités suraiguës, l’accordéon soufflera et gémira, se perdra dans des froissement métalliques, installera des bourdons dans la répétition entêtée d’une phrase musicale, ou encore créera des rythmiques graves et discrètes. Les textures s’empilent et s’enrichissent mutuellement pour créer des mondes sonores envoûtants. Les amateurs de musiques électroniques minimalistes et de drone ne devraient pas être dépaysées par cet enregistrement.
Le trio 300 Basses n’en est certainement qu’au début de son exploration de l’accordéon tant le territoire à défricher semble vaste. On se prend par exemple à imaginer ce que pourrait donner une confrontation de l’accordéon avec l’électronique. Les quarante huit minutes de cet enregistrements sont néanmoins déjà fort prometteuses.
Freesilence's blog l Juillet 2012
Découvrir que l'expression 300 Basses désigne un groupe où s'associent trois accordéonistes – Alfredo Costa Monteiro (qui œuvre dans Cremaster), Jonas Kocher (dont les récents travaux avec Michel Doneda ont attiré l'attention) et Luca Venitucci (repéré dans Zeitkratzer ou aux côtés de Thieke et Renkel) – c'est se souvenir que le label Potlatch avait publié voici près de dix ans un trio de seuls sopranistes Placés dans l'air... Écouter ensuite les « six refrains » de ce disque enregistré en novembre 2011, c'est les entendre comme un écho au sruti box de Lucio Capece tout dernièrement édité par la même maison...
Envoûtant organisme vivant, ce chœur (d'harmonicas, d'orgues, voire de contrebasses) déploie ses textures avec la plus grande subtilité dans des morceaux aux climats bien distincts. Ici, une respiration apaisée ; là, presque un quatuor à cordes de Cage; plus loin, un tissage d'harmoniques stratosphériques. La splendeur de la pièce liminaire le laissait comprendre : force, évidence, et dans le même temps l'absolue délicatesse du bruit des boutons, des inspirations, des soufflets. Pas de prolifération industrieuse, mais le juste versant poétique. Excellent.
Guillaume Tarche l Le son du Grisli l Juillet 2012
300 Basses is the trio of Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Jonas Kocher and Luca Venitucci. They all play accordion in this scenario, Costa Monteiro and Venitucci integrating the legitimate (…er…) voice of the instrument with unmentioned “objects” (though photos on the web reveal bows and small metal plates, probably employed together with other discomposing materials). The theory behind the trio’s work is that of “liberating” the accordion – one of the most traditional instruments known to mankind – by relating its parts to vibrational principles causing different types of resonance, well beyond its origin of “box with keys and buttons”. On an Italian press release, this project’s sound has been described – quite poetically – as “background noise emerging from our perception”.
For sure there’s neither room for aesthetic compromise, nor for any immediate fraternization with the general audience. Each of the six tracks starts from a restricted part of a given acoustic spectrum and stays there throughout the completion of the operations. The extremes of the pitch range – respectively, low and high – are inspected in “Fuoco Fatuo” and “Maledetto”, also the pieces where the volume is at the softest level. The miscellany of melodically gravelly breathing and irksome discrepant acerbity is at its uppermost harsh in “Abbandonato” and “Gira Bile”, the latter a veritable minimalist see-saw whose oil is progressively leaking until a complete grinding of the mechanism is foreseeable. The rest (“Mala Carne”, “Fantasma”) is resolutely constructed upon the proximity of diverse kinds of jarring vibrations: the type of stuff that causes fair-weathered analysts to privately ask “why should I be subjected to this while listening to a record?”.
The answer is simple: glorious flowers are frequently found in a thorny briar. All you need is grasping the inherent composition of what appears as “noise”, and rationalizing those strident contrasts into chords. Still difficult to handle for many, but chords nevertheless.
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
The credits of Sei Ritornelli require some explanation, in order to avoid confusion or unrealistic expectations. Firstly, formed in 2010, 300 Basses is a multinational trio consisting of the Portuguese-born Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Jonas Kocher from Switzerland and Italian Luca Venitucci. Contrary to the mind-boggling images conjured up by the group name, all three play accordion; no-one plays bass. The album title, like the track titles, is in Italian and translates as "six refrains." In fact, the six pieces are all improvisations and so, good as they are, there is no sign of a refrain in any of them. The six were recorded live in November 2011, during the trio's residency at L'Arc Romainmôtier in Switzerland; none of them is prolonged, the shortest lasting under five minutes, the longest under eleven.
The three players manage to extract a range of atypical sounds from their accordions. So, the opening track "Fuoco Fatuo" starts with some very low frequency tones that could almost be from double basses, but are not. The three interact well, layering their sounds to produce a relaxing soundscape that has both depth and detail, all underpinned by those bass drones. The spell of that opener is soon broken by the discordant intro to "Abbandonato" with its sustained screeches, reminiscent of feedback, which creates a wall of noise. As with any good noise piece, within that barrage there is a lot of small detail that reveals itself over repeated listening, so that it never seems repetitive or monotonous.
"Gira Bile" brings further contrast, being totally different again to the preceding tracks. It is constructed from overlaid chords which create a pleasingly harmonious and constantly evolving piece. As well as accordion, Monteiro and Venitucci are both credited with playing "objects," and percussive sounds that contrast with the sounds of the accordions may be evidence of that. "Mala Carne" is another noise piece which starts with all three players full on and builds from there; its sounds range from sustained drones to staccato percussion, all combined together sympathetically. "Maledetto" again belies the fact that the source of the music is primarily accordions; it would be far easier to believe that its high pitched whines originated from laptops, yet the album credits make no mention of electronics. Whatever their source, the dominant impression left by the sounds is how well they fit together into a coherent whole. The same is true of "Fantasma" which brings this rich and varied album to a satisfying conclusion.
John Eyles, All about Jazz
People who ignore layout of basses on accordions - for example Stradella accordion, which is the most common one, has 120 bass buttons, even if most of musicians doesn't really need all of them to play all bass notes and corresponding chords - could find the name of this interesting project as well as the name of their recording "Sei Ritornelli" (Italian for "six refrains") quite misleading as even though this trio of accordion players, made up of Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Jonas Kocher and Luca Venitucci, often explore lower parts of audible spectrum, they don't play basses. Focusing on this instrument and their renewed versions - just in these days, I received an invite to the sixth edtion of International Festival of Digital Accordion, which is scheduled on 3rd November and is going to be held in Rome - could be equally misleading as they integrated a number of "objects" in the line-up during the 3-days lasting recording session at L'Arc Romainmotier (Switzerland), so that you shouldn't expect revised version of Tyrolean folk songs at all. The long initial recording "Fuoco Fatuo" sounds like the typical intro of improv music sessions, where the players looks like tuning their tools, but layer after layer their scouring on the lowest part of accordion's frequency band turns into something pleasantly relaxing, when it's suddenly broken by harshest squeaks of the following track "Abbandonato", whose strident noises could be tiresome if they would haven't inserted some variations. The accordion sound is clearer in the sinister and somewhat obsessive cycles of "Gira Bile", which could remind the noise of a not so perfectedly oiled rusty mechanism, whereas it's partially masked by hypnotic bass oscillations, chilling metallic cacophonies and clattering slides on "Mala Carne". Whereas the trio migrates towards highest frequencies on "Maledetto", a sort of inverted tuning compared to the initial "Fuoco Fatuo", the final "Fantasma" - the track I liked more - shows a gluier amalgamation between accordions.
Vito Camarretta, Chain DLK
There are many presumptive angles from which Sei Ritornelli, the fascinating new record by Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Jonas Kocher and Luca Venitucci, might be misjudged, not the least of which would be considering it a record by an accordion trio. It is, but that knowledge might raise either sentiments or hackles, depending on one's associations with the instrument. Either way, the concern would be misguided.
Other likely misapprehensions might include: thinking that it fits too squarely into the minimalist improv mode that Potlatch, the label that released it, frequently falls into; indeed, thinking that the pointillistic star map design of the cover promises something Spartan and neo-classical; thinking that the name of the band — 300 Basses — applies to the music in any discernible way; or even, upon listening to the first of the six tracks (or choruses, as the title — in Italian — frames it) thinking that the rest of the tracks will follow suit.
In fact the final of those useful-only-by-example-of-omission suggestions hints at what is so fascinating about the six choruses that make up Sei Ritornelli. The 10½ minute opener is as ethereal as the air inside the instruments' bellows, bringing to mind the vogue of internal sound-making among the more outré of current horn players. It's not uncommon for experimental audio artists to set an agenda and work strictly within its constructs. But 300 Basses sets six agendas and explores each concisely. After the opener, the group launches into a fascinating eight minute feedback montage. That's followed by a wonderful five-minute exercise in repetition with the most accordion-y sounds on the album. The next 10 minutes are almost animalistic in their noisiness, followed by 15 minutes (over the final two tracks) of near-drones.
Thinking about what can be done with an instrument that hasn't been done already is a common strategy in experimental improvisation, but 300 Basses goes beyond that. The trio faces six very different self-imposed challenges in a brisk 48 minutes, making for a wonderfully rewarding listen.
Kurt Gottschalk l The Squid's Ear l November 2012
Voilà un enregistrement qui peut rappeler si besoin la leçon qu'il est préférable en toutes circonstances de ne pas avoir d'a priori même s'ils sont positifs. Il est de ces enregistrements qui indiquent qu'il est toujours souhaitable sinon hautement recommandé d'entendre les musiciens en concert plutôt qu'en disque. Le présent CD en est la manifestation flagrante car ce qui est donné à entendre est une formidable exploration des possibilités sonores de l'accordéon mais l'ensemble des 6 pièces qui le composent prend l'aspect d'un catalogue de couleurs et de textures sonores qui ne parvient pas à former un tout cohérent du fait même de l'absence sans doute délibérée de toute articulation. L'auditeur peut-il cheminer au travers de ces figures monochromes ? Peut-il se diriger dans l'opacité des atmosphères proposées ? Ne reste-t-il à l'auditeur que l'espace entre les plages du disque pour se mouvoir dans son écoute ?
Car si l'attention aux phénomènes sonores que chacun des musiciens met en œuvre à travers son instrument est magnifiquement portée, le fait de les circonscrire et de les empêcher même de s'affaiblir ne donnerait-il pas l'impression d'un resserrement sur l'acquis plutôt que l'accueil des circonstances présentes ? L'écoute doit-elle être rassurée par des objets aux contours définis sans plus d'espace vacants entre eux ?
Mais peut-être que ce disque, sous la forme donc d'une suite d'échantillons, joue son rôle d'appel à venir vérifier de visu comment ces musiciens appréhendent le moment du concert où ils ne sont plus seuls.
Baku, Revue et Corrigée
Despite their name, there’s not a bass in sight for the improvisational trio of Jonas Kocher, Luca Venitucci and Alfredo Costa Monteiro.
All three of them play accordion on Sei Ritornelli and not much else, although ‘objects’ are mentioned on the sleeve. This isn’t accordion as we know it, though. Recorded live in Switzerland at the back end of 2011 and mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi, the instrument’s familiar pump-and-wheeze is manipulated to such levels as to come out sounding totally alien. Essentially what I suppose one would call a ‘noise’ record – and there are definitely noisy tracks here – the collective augment proceedings by heightening the impact of natural sounds. The magnificently slow-moving ‘Fuoco Fatuo’ creaks as though taking place on an ancient boat, with what I guess are the musicians’ chairs providing the gently percussive click or perhaps the dusty folds of the instruments themselves. The drones coaxed out of the accordions are deep, menacing ones that prowl around the edges of the performance space.
Sei Ritornelli is a remarkably varied album considering the limited means with which it was made. From the regal creep of ‘Fuoco Fatuo’ emerges the screed of ‘Abbandonato’, a tortured series of metallic scrapes and high-pitched howls that sound more like damaged violins than accordions. The closest the album comes to a ‘classic’ accordion sound is ‘Gira Bile’, a woozy seesaw of tired air that could ostensibly soundtrack a back-street Parisian horror, but for the most part the album is given over to a more jarring set of sounds that hide their lineage. ‘Mala Carne’ is a growling, writhing beast; kind of a migraine made audible, accompanied by rattlesnake crackles to increase the fevered terror. It rolls over for ten minutes before being put suddenly out of its misery. The eight-minute blackboard screech of ‘Maledetto’ (translation: ‘Damned’) is the most typically ‘noise’ track on the CD, like a stripped-back Merzbow or less filthy Kevin Drumm piece.
‘Fantasma’ is a relatively relaxing track to close on, but again represents a change in direction. Here the accordions’ keys are held down and the resutlant drones are a kind of sonic spaghettification. A strange buzz – like a fly caught inside the bellows – flits around it all, providing the air of dissonance required to lift the music onto a higher, more interesting plain. The album as a whole is a restless, slightly fragmented piece of work but one that presents an oft-unloved instrument in new and refreshingly contemporary light.
Steve Dewhurst, Foxy Digitalis
I wonder how many reviews of this new release on the Potlatch label will open with a line wondering why an acoustic accordion trio are named 300 Basses? A good few I imagine. The trio here are Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Jonas Kocher and Luca Venitucci, and this disc of six tracks is named Sei Ritornelli, which my love of Luigi Nono’s music helps me to translate as something like Six Choruses. Now, as Brian points out in his recent review of this disc, not everyone loves the sound of an accordion, and I’ve got to say, that when its being pumped and played in its more traditional manner I’m not the biggest fan. There is something in particular about that certain whine that an accordion produces that annoys me just a bit more than I would prefer. So some of the tracks here, and in particular those that have a more highly pitched droning nature to them get under my skin just a bit. Others however, such as the opening Fuoco Fatuo, which mixes rumbling deep bass tones and breathy pops and scratches are a very different affair. Its just that one, slightly too familiar whining pitch that I dislike.
There is no doubting the skill and creativity that goes into these pieces of music. Accordions are commonly related to one particular sound primarily because its difficult to get any other sounds out of them. So as this trio manage a whole kaleidoscope of sounds and textures from their squeezeboxes there can be no doubting the degree of control and dexterity they are able to put to work, and then once you consider that not only are a degree of extended techniques at work here, but also the three musicians need to match their sounds to one another, then the playing becomes even more impressive again.
I do find myself preferring some tracks to others though, almost to the point of wishing the album was either half as long, or that the pieces I enjoy were twice in length. The third piece here, Gira Bile is another that gets to me a bit after a while. High pitched swaying wails pass by in a semi-rhythmic manner, the three accordions tuned carefully against one another so their their combined sounds seem to coalesce, and yet each of the three instruments is very easily separated from the others. The piece is a bit like the rusty old swing I used to play on with my brothers and friends in a nearby park when I was very small. I remember its sound very well, a groaning, straining wrench that heightened its pitch as the motion became quicker. Odd how this track brings back such vivid memories of that swing, how sounds stay in the memory for so long, only to be unearthed by similar ones half a lifetime later. I don’t remember any bad memories attached to that particular swing, but I don’t get on with this sound today, its grating repetitive insistence a little too much here. The following track, Mala Carne contains just as much of a repeating motif, but here the sound is less tonal, more earthy and rough rather than tonally pitched, and so while the track has a menacingly sharp edge to it as a result I enjoy its sounds a lot.
The fifth track Maledetto contains lots of very thin, whispery high pitched tones, but here the sounds are so slight and so clean, almost sinewave-like in their nature that I have no problem here either, the sounds don’t sound like accordions, and the piece has a lightness to it that leans away from the kind of intense drone of Fantasma, the droning closing track, which is carefully intoned at precisely the level that I struggle to deal with. This is for me then, a mixed bag, but this is a really personal thing based on my very particular dislike of a very particular range of sounds. There is no doubting the immense skill and mutual understanding involved here to make this music. I have enjoyed the work of all of the musicians in other contexts a great deal (and have even released CDs by two of them myself) but my listening focus is repeatedly broken here by my irrational distaste for the sound they achieve in a few places. Such is life. Don’t let my strange foibles get in the way of your enjoyment of this album.
Richard Pinnell l The Watchful Ear l August 2012
I admit to being predisposed to like an ensemble called "300 Basses" consisting of a trio of accordionists. Or, to paraphrase, Homer, "Accordions! Is there nothing they can't do?" Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Jonas Kocher and Luca Venitucci, supplementing their squeezeboxes with objects, open with a low, information-packed hum, quivering and prickly, one that fades in and out like troubled breathing, before slowly exploding into a needle-filled wheeze that's both harrowing nd absorbing, all dry, keening scrapes. I get the impression hat some forethought was applied in the generation of the six pieces (though no compositional credit is provided), the next track consisting of a different sort of high-pitched, pained throb, also extremely rich with detail and admitting of much more substance than one can discern on a single hearing. "Gira Bile" can almost be read in a free jazz context with two of the accordionists providing a droning (superbly so) backdrop whilst another "solos" atop, his sounds having an air and vernacular of blown reeds; I was picturing a primo Brotzmann performance....on accordion. It works. Throughout, there's more a sense of the sere than deep mellowness, the latter used sparingly as a color. Each of the "ritornelles" (choruses, I'm informed) is strong and captivating. If there are still listeners around who balk at accordions (difficult for me to imagine!), do check it out. Everyone else as well--a very fine recording.
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside