Alfredo Costa Monteiro


pluie fine

Comme d’habitude, j’ai attendu cette dernière publication de Potlatch avec impatience. Car c’est bien un des rares labels en qui j’ai entièrement confiance – notamment depuis le duo Keith Rowe/Evan Parker. Sans compter que Ferran Fages et Angharad Davies, mais surtout Alfredo Costa Monteiro, sont des musiciens que j’aime suivre et que j’apprécie énormément. Seulement voilà, contre toute attente, pluie fine ne m’a pas procuré la claque habituelle. La surprise n’a pas été aussi grande qu’avec le chef d’œuvre de Lucio Capece ou le quartet Propagations par exemple. Un album pas vraiment conformiste, mais prévisible quand on connaît ces musiciens. Ceci-dit, je fais vraiment la fine bouche ici, car pluie fine reste tout de même un disque que je conseillerais facilement, et c’est peut-être mon préféré du projet Cremaster (pour l’instant en tout cas, car je ne les ai pas tous écoutés).
Formellement, il s’agit d’une collaboration à distance entre le duo espagnol Cremaster – soit Alfredo Costa Monteiro (dispositif électroacoustique, enceintes, guitare électrique) & Ferran Fages (dispositif électroacoustique aussi, et table de mixage bouclée sur elle-même) et la violoniste anglaise Angharad Davies. Pendant près de trois ans, les musiciens se sont échangés des fichiers musicaux, les ont assemblés, transformés, mixés, pour nous les offrir aujourd’hui sous cette forme. (Au passage, pluie fine est dédicacée à Simon [Reynell, je suppose])
Actuellement en fait, je suis plutôt gêné: comment aborder et décrire cette musique? Ceux qui la connaissent devraient comprendre j’imagine. Mais pour les autres, comment faire? Il s’agit d’un assemblage de larsens, d’objets et d’installations électroacoustiques, de tables de mixage en circuits fermés, et d’un violon. Une musique abstraite et corrosive, où la présence de Davies est entièrement justifiée dans la mesure où son jeu minimaliste, grinçant, lent, et agressif, correspond très bien à la musique du duo espagnol. Alfredo Costa Monteiro & Ferran Fages ont quant à eux produits des masses sonores qui progressent souvent par micro-évolutions, des nappes qui pénètrent l’intérieur même et les profondeurs physiques du son. Une exploration magistrale des phénomènes électroacoustiques. Et oui forcément j’ai envie de dire c’est abstrait, mais là où ils réussissent, c’est dans une volonté de garder certains repaires, de répéter des éléments, de ne pas nier la musicalité du bruit, et de donner une forme à ce qui n’en avait auparavant pas.
Et cette structure qui apparaît par moments, fondée soit sur la répétition, soir sur l’étirement d’une séquence sonore, nous fait pénétrer dans l’intimité même du son et des musiciens. Les formes nous aident et nous encouragent à embrasser le son en tant que tel, en dépit de ses propriétés souvent dures et repoussantes (notamment à propos des nombreux larsens et des sons abrasifs et abstraits omniprésents). Par moments – voir par exemple les quelques magnifiques minutes de conclusion basées sur des glissandos exceptionnellement émouvants – AAC, FF et AD nous plongent dans des territoires sonores étonnamment émotionnels au vu de leur abstraction. La plongée dans les confins du son n’est pas si aride, l’abstraction s’arrête pile poil au niveau de la froideur ou de l’aridité, et la musique se fait expressionnisme abstrait plutôt que simplement abstraite.
Une exploration méticuleuse et vertigineuse dans des territoires sonores durs et abstraits, mais l’abstraction sonore n’est pas exempte d’une grande sensibilité musicale et émotionnelle. Ça va loin, très loin, mais toujours avec sensibilité. Cremaster & Angharad Davies nous entraînent dans leurs intimes, abrasifs et minimalistes territoires sonores pour nous proposer une cartographie émotionnelle de leur collaboration. Et c’est un plaisir qui n’a rien de masochiste d’entendre cette musique dure, riche, sensible, profonde et puissante.

Julien Héraud l Improv Sphere l Décembre 2012


A welcome drizzle indeed. Davies’ violin is a fine choice to augment the gents of Cremaster (Ferran Fages, feedback mixing board, electro-acoustic devices and Alfredo Costa-Monteiro, similar devices, speakers, electric guitar). When listening to her music or that of Cremaster, words like «sandy» and «sere» often come to mind, but not so much dryness; there are always layers, some containing tinges of moisture, maybe a little clay…That clayey feel is front and center here in a recording suffused with fine timbres and just enough implicit structure to cohere over the long run.
How to describe? there’s a kind of inexorable grind to it; retaining the desert imagery, I think of the giant sandworms of Arrakis, that they might have produced the sounds heard on embrun, the first track here. The resonant whine, amplified down cavernous, miles-long, grit-filled tunnels. The moans could be death throes or orgasmic sighs…wonderful piece, would love to experience its like in a live situation.
bruine is shriller and maintains a wavering but fairly consistent tone throughout. It’s strong, though, and «little» things like the short washes of brushed cymbal-like sounds (I assume electronically produced) carry great weight, swathe the piercing tone in just enough chamois until it expands outwards, accumulating mass and detritus as it does so. Again, a fine work. Things grow somewhat more jagged with crachin, hard crystals jutting out from the side of those tunnels, gouging one’s thighs, dust stinging one’s eyes. As with much of this work, there’s a vastness at hand, a massive volume of space created, odd given the seeming thinness of much of the sound material. I pick up a bit of the divine rawness of Xenakis’ electronic work in this one.
pluie fine–excellent recording, perhaps my favorite from those involved, which is saying something.

Brian Olewnick l Just Outside l December 2012

On Sei Ritornelli, the recent CD by the 300 Basses, Alfredo Costa Monteiro and two other improvisers extracted an impressively diverse array of sounds whilst each played an accordion. Here Monteiro, Ferran Fages and Angharad Davies accomplish the opposite; to extract highly consonant sounds from utterly dissimilar instruments. Monteiro and Fages, a couple of Barcelona residents who have performed together as Cremaster since 2000, play electro-acoustic devices (springs, walky-talky, and contact microphones attached to small items), feedback mixing board, and electric guitar. Davies, a Welsh woman who has been based in London for the past decade, plays acoustic violin. But the layered sounds on Embrun, the first of three quarter hour-long tracks on Pluie Fine (the titles all refer to drizzle), are so well matched that it’s a distraction to try and separate them. That high pure tone you hear might be electronic, or it might be bow against strings; that descending moan combines string and electronic tones so closely, they’re inseparable. If you’ve wondered what “electro-acoustic” means, here you have it laid out for you.
The sources of the sounds aren’t necessarily as important here as what the sounds do. Embrun and Bruine are studies in how closely clustered sounds can complement or disrupt each other by setting up interactions — beating tones or implied sounds generated by the sounding of two adjacent ones — so that it often sounds like more than three people are playing, even though what each person plays is pretty simple. In fact, long passages of Bruine sound quite like a satellite singing with a sawmill, their songs stitched together by subliminal Morse code transmissions. Crachin has the widest disparity of sounds; the violin threads a thin sheet of high frequencies in between thick blankets of static hiss and protesting metal. Most likely these sounds were generated spontaneously, that is, without a score, and this is the sort of record that gets labeled “improv” simply because it sounds complex and tune-free.
But this is not free improvisation. Cremaster and Davies sent the music back and forth between Spain and England, sharing ideas and assembling the music over the course of 22 months. If you prize improvisational methods over results, this approach might sound like cheating, but the outcome speaks for itself. This is tough and involving music, fat-free and full of surprise.

Bill Meyer l Dusted l January 2013


Cremaster is the well-established electro-acoustic duo of Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Ferran Fages, both from the Barcelona experimental music scene. While using electro-acoustic devices, they commendably claim to avoid effects, loops or prerecorded material—which certainly distinguishes them from many others active in a similar area. As a duo, their releases notably include Live at Audiograft (Consumer Waste, 2012) and Igneo (Cathnor, 2010).
Pluie Fine is distinctly different, as it integrates the duo with the London-based Welsh violinist: Angharad Davies. She is active both as an improviser and as a performer of contemporary compositions, typified respectively by two highly-praised 2012 releases, Outwash (Another Timbre, 2012) and Ist gefallen in den Schnee (Another Timbre, 2012).
Pluie Fine consists of three tracks, each clocking in at around the fifteen-minute mark. Rather than being improvised, the album credits indicate that they were composed, recorded and assembled between September 2010 and July 2012 in Barcelona, with violin parts recorded by Kostis Kilymis on March 2012 in Oxford. The album is the result of several exchanges of recorded material shared between Cremaster and Davies from 2010 to 2012, each piece having been built up from multiple transformations passing slowly back and forth between the musicians. All of which paints a fascinating picture of the creative process, one which seems akin to good improvisation, with ideas passing backwards and forwards between the musicians and slowly evolving towards a commonly agreed music; the only difference is the time scale—while improvisation happens in moments, this album was created over years.
But, whatever the process, the end result is three contrasting pieces, each with its own unique character and soundscape. So, the opening Embrun is smooth-flowing and ethereal while the higher frequencies of Bruine have a harsher edge and are not as easy on the ear, with the closing Crachin a happy medium between the first two. All three tracks display the time and effort invested in creating them; their separate strands fit together seamlessly, ebbing and flowing to make room for each other, but together forming a coherent whole which depends on each of them—if any strand were removed, the totality would be the poorer for it. The violin—prepared, as Davies often does—is entirely equal and compatible with the duo’s electronics and, at times, could itself be taken for electronically generated tones. Altogether, the album makes engaging and multifaceted listening.

John Eyles l All About Jazz l January 2013

Less fine rain, more of a seething stormy cauldron. Pluie Fine is a release three years in the making, the result of recordings swapped backward and forward between Cremaster, who are Barcelona based omni-musicians Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Ferran Fages and London based violinist Angharad Davies. Judging by the limited liner notes, it seems that the shaping of sounds into a composition took place in Barcelona, one assumes without Davies, who provided new sounds throughout the process, presumably in response to the gradually assembled work in progress. The end result is three separate works that all share a similar, if not identical soundworld. The overall feel is of neatly, tightly intertwined wails and cries, some of which originate from the violin (but don’t necessarily still sound much like a violin) and some that come from whatever feedback/electronics/electromagnetic/otherwise sound sources the Cremaster guys put to use. There is something strangely sub-aquatic here- the cry of whales maybe, the deep, slow resonance of sounds travelling underwater, a heaviness to the sound. From the outset of the first piece Embrun we are presented with high pitched, yearning calls of one kind or another that overlap each other, a new one rising over the one before as they crash over each other like waves. The electronic sounds range between fizzing, buzzing abstractions, bassy growls and a feedbackish screeching not that dissimilar to Davies’ Welsh whale wails (sorry!). Ten minutes into Embrun things rise above the earlier simmer to a dense, perhaps aggressive mass of sounds from all directions, some dirtily grating, others distantly moaning, with the foreground always piercingly, occasionally viciously present. Its tough going for the listener at times, while each sound feels delicate, the way they mass together presents a claustrophobic approach at times that sets out to pummel into your skull and succeeds in doing so.

If the palette sounds used here is not necessarily anything new, what really makes this album a fine one is the way it is put together. There is a feeling of real consistency and purpose here. Often music put together in this manner sounds like the accidental collision of different sounds sent in from afar, but here the sounds have been carefully chosen, and then expertly woven together. The album took three years to make, but it sounds like over that period a lot of time was spent on the construction of the three tracks, knitting small parts into a cohesive whole. While the sounds here are wild and of the kind we would usually only expect to hear in an improvised, spontaneous work, Pluie Fine sounds tightly composed- concise and describing a clear narrative with all elements sounding like they have a deliberate part to play. Dark and often oppressively atmospheric, this is fine album indeed then, the work of strong musicians with an exceptional knowledge of their raw materials and the vision and skill to put them to use.

Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear