Alfredo Costa Monteiro



Though over the last several years I’ve greatly enjoyed the work of all three participants here, there’s something at least a little bit daunting about attempting to grasp 100 minutes plus of their music at one “sitting”. The first play or two through “Semisferi”, I had a tough time wrapping my arms around it, trying to hear the whole. I imagine it will come into clearer focus over ensuing listens, but by now it’s cohered enough that the strands, smudges and gases have begun to form a convincing sound-world, one that doubtless still contains as yet (to me) undeciphered elements.
Disc One contains two tracks recorded in January 2006. The first, “ebvo”, is a relatively short (about 12 minutes) tour de force, recalling the rough and ready attack Ferran Fages undertook on his fine recording with Will Guthrie from earlier this year, “cinabri”. Fages (acoustic turntable, engines, bass tom), Ruth Barberan (trumpet, amplified objects) and Alfredo Costa Monteiro (accordion, devices) fashion a swirling eddy of sound here, a flood of flotsam and jetsam cascading down a narrow crevasse, banging off the rough walls and colliding with obstacles. The length is just about perfect for this approach, allowing a wonderful sense of pressure to build without exhausting the listener. Complications arise one the longer tracks. “veoiu” runs over 40 minutes and while there are portions that attain the same level of excitement as the opener, there are (necessarily?) broad swathes where the action stagnates. There can be objects of fascination to be found in stagnation as well, of course, but too often in this case I simply found my attention wandering much as the musicians seemed to be meandering in search of the next inspiration. There are moments, to be sure, when things seem to gel for a while and other listeners may certainly discover connections I missed; I tend to enjoy Costa Monteiro’s accordion whenever it appears and Barberan’s buzzing brass is also generally a pleasure. But it’s the louder sections when the musicians seem to abandon themselves to the noise that that the solidification takes place; the closing several minutes do indeed echo the intensity of “ebvo”.
“rtiug”, a live recording from April of this year, comprises the whole of the second disc and is by and large more cohesive than the longer studio cut. Again, the rule seems to hold that the higher the volume level rises, the more compelling the music. It’s long been a truism of free improv that the musicians’ mettle is really tested during quieter, sparser pieces. I’m not sure if that’s always the case but here, for example about midway through when a semi-rhythmic clatter emerges (the “acoustic turntable”? I’m still unsure as to what that is, exactly), underpinned by a brooding accordion and other percussive detritus, it’s genuinely gripping. That pattern of sparse/busy—soft/loud maintains itself pretty much throughout and matches up fairly well with this listener’s involvement. It ebbs and flows and maybe that’s all that you can ask. Get into the proper rhythm as listener and it can work well. More than most releases, my reaction varied widely from listen to listen. I have to ultimately judge that a good thing and applaud the three musicians for providing a knotty, often perplexing challenge. Overall, I enjoyed it about as much as I did the same trio’s “Istmo” (Creative Sources) though “Atolon” (Rossbin) remains their high water mark for me.
Brian Olewnick 15, 2006 Bagatellen