A strong recording from Matthews (digital synthesis, manipulated field recordings) and Costa Monteiro (amplified springs, electric motors, radio). I’m increasingly at a loss how to describe work like this insofar as differentiating it from that of others. This isn’t a criticism–far from it, the music here is excellent–just to say that it inhabits a zone–grainy, amorphous but with organic shape, rich in depth–that’s not so uncommon. Again, that’s fine by me. I’ve enjoyed Costa Monteiro’s work for quite some time and find he rarely disappoints. I’m far less familiar with Matthews, having heard perhaps four or five examples, liking some, not caring for others. But this is a really nice pairing, consistently (at least) interesting, sometimes elevating matters further. They handle density and sparseness equally well and their palette, which I hear in tones of rough gray and brown, is prickly and engaging. Love to hear them in concert…In the meantime, check this one out.
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside, january 2012
C’est une autre affaire de field recordings manipulés qui se joue sur Winter. Avec Alfredo Costa Monteiro cette fois, Wade Matthews chercha à Madrid, trois jours durant, un terrain d’entente où pourraient évoluer sans se gêner (voire en faisant preuve d’harmonie) ses sons transformés et les drones et sifflements de son partenaire.
Accidenté, le terrain que le duo trouve n’en est que plus pittoresque : ici, des bruits infinitésimaux y fleurissent sur des tremblements de basse ou de saxophone ; là, des moteurs font avancer des carcasses minuscules sur une ligne droite de laquelle ils déborderont ; ailleurs, un vent glacial se lève et emporte tous parasites ; ailleurs encore, une oscillation estime son envergure sur une rumeur électrique.
Ainsi les souvenirs enregistrés ont été transformés en compositions abstraites aux structures de flocons. Et en élément discographie indispensable à la discographie de Matthews autant qu’à celle de Costa Monteiro.
Guillaume Belhomme, Le son du grisli
This album creates an engaging sound world full of invention. In its best moments the music comes across as effortless, without any intention of showcasing a raft of original sounds simply for the sake of originality. That last observation should be taken in a positive sense – it matters very little whether sounds are original, unusual or ‘fashionable’. What matters in the kind of idiom we have here is that the sounds are interesting in themselves and in combination, that they are well shaped, layered and mixed, and that there are not so many sounds coming at you that you feel overwhelmed, that you have time and space to enjoy the music. In this respect Matthews and Monteiro have succeeded by means focusing on a restricted palette and by making best use of their fine listening skills.
In the first track Aconite, the sounds are generally difficult sounds to pin down. There is activity, predominantly in the noisy and fluttery sources, a powerful crescendo and a much gentler coda to settle us down. Regardless of whether this is composed, improvised, or both at once, behind everything lies a sense of restraint and craftsmanship.
Crookneck begins with a foreground of animated crackly sounds against a contrasting background texture, then offers us some detailed interest by means of activated springs. A few well-chosen sounds are brought together in a series of combinations. These combinations are given time to ‘work themselves through’ meaningfully, punctuated at times by sudden drop-outs. There are some beautiful passages here – a duet of springs plus the electronic sheen of some form of digital synthesis. We can identify the recognisable envelopes of some of the field recording material, despite being unable to identify the exact sources. The fact that I’m not spending all my time playing game show participant with the sound sources would suggest that the music holds much greater interest than a bunch of sounds composed in some fashion. The very obvious use of the radio breaks the acousmatic spell somewhat, taking us over that bridge between abstracted material to recognisable or referential material, introducing perhaps even an element of narrative. Here, and more generally throughout this album, the artists show good musical sense in letting passages run, allowing the sounds to unfold and speak for themselves. We finish again with another quiet coda. This piece is packed full of musical interest, again demonstrating a clever use of the restricted palette.
Flounder kicks off with radio, some static with accompanying indeterminate digital textures. Then metallic sounds. This piece seems very deliberately to set up a specific sound world, clear in its choice of materials, and to follow it through convincingly. Some obvious compositional or improvisational strategies – sudden dropouts, quick cuts – remind us that authors are still there. Again this is a fine piece which offers a listening environment full of interest, energy and invention. From a personal point of view, for what that’s worth, it goes some way along the direction I’d like to see music going. The artists have worked hard at selecting and shaping their sounds. Imposed form gives way to sonic interest, allowing form, at the best moments, to emerge from content.
Haven has a more introspective beginning: an almost instrumental pedal, a few background layers, blurred boundaries between foreground and background. This uncertainty is a strong feature of the album, particularly impressive when layers emerge and recede almost imperceptibly, over a tapestry of other textural and gestural activities. Modulations in the layers come to the fore, pushing through the intriguing textural veil, all done without any of the sounds jumping out at you demanding attention. Again, the use of the radio is foregrounded, this time as high frequency whispery radio voices which break the spell somewhat but are consistent with the use of the radio elsewhere. More importantly these sounds draw clearly perceptible structural relationships with what sounds to me like transformed contemporaneous material in a lower midrange layer.
Savory opens with two, then three well-chosen sounds. The layers and gestures enter, again promoting that effective uncertainty as to which will be foregrounded. The new sounds ‘materialise’ very well, again nothing surprising or unusual, but all very convincing – they simply fit well together. This piece took an unusual direction with the appearance of a processed vocal sound – a very odd referential musical syntagm. From this point, the music seemed to follow a markedly different direction from the previous pieces – out of kilter with the ‘edgy’ restraint of the previous tracks.
All in all, I’d offer the suggestion that the success of this album can be attributed to a two-piece arrangement in which the sense of focus and the merging of identities is almost complete, in which the music is delivered succinctly and with taste. We never feel that there are too many cooks in the kitchen and, at the risk of bending the metaphor out of shape, our two chefs have had the good sense not to throw the kitchen sink into the soup.
James Wyness – Fouter & Swick
More audible things can be heard on the duo disc of Wade Matthews (digital synthesis, manipulated field recordings) and Alfredo Costa Monteiro (amplified springs, electric motors and radio). About a year ago they recorded together for a few days in Madrid which resulted in this fine work. I quite enjoy the various works by both of them, although I heard more Monteiro than Matthews, and this new one doesn’t disappoint either. They do exactly what we think they should do (which to some might be a ‘bad’ thing) and that is construct careful constructions in sound. As said more audible than Antoine Beuger, but with some similarities: the sometimes sustaining sine wave like sounds, the acoustic element thrown in by Monteiro, but also with some differences, such as the somewhat abrupt collage techniques employed here. Their improvising techniques might be similar, but they work with it in a totally different way. At times I am reminded of the local group The Dear Listeners, especially when it comes to using the radio and the electronics, but that might be a reference not a lot of people would recognize. Another mighty fine and refined disc.
Frans de Waard, Vital weekly
“Winter”, which is a sound art collaboration between Wade Matthews and Alfredo Costa Monteiro, recorded in Madrid, immidiately reminded me of some of the most recent LPs put out on PAN records. Eli Kelszler and John Weise came to mind. There are lots of random sounds that pilfer the recordings, little blips that grab your attention, and random turns that undermine the albums main theme of oscillating machinery drones and cold, cold, ambience. Each track, from the blistering winds of “Crookneck”, to the eerie sunlight in “Haven” is coated in that Arctic, frostbitten sound that runs the border between soothing ambience and harsh electronic banter, ultimately creating a sense of uneasiness. This is only augmented by the disembodied moans and whispers, radio static, and general sense of neverending loneliness. Winter is a very varied and satisfying listen, and its definitely one of those records that takes more than one sitting to soak in, which is also a strong point. The whole record converges on the final track, “Savory”, where Matthews, who is in charge of “manipulated field recordings” and synthesizers, and Costa Monteiro, who handles the industrial noises and radio static, create a harmonically concordant wall of frozen sonic doom. The more I listen to Winter, the less I feel that the title is fitting. It reminds me less of days spent wandering in the snow, and more of the abandoned scientific stations in Antarctica. Instruments frozen, machinery fused together, everything covered in razor-edged permafrost.
Ross Devlin, Foxy digitalis
Wade Matthews and Alfredo Costa Monteiro are two serious musicians who kick off their creative processes by listening attentively and realizing what’s going on around them, then – eventually – decide to release a record containing the acoustic rendering of the reasons behind that primary suggestion. In the case of Winter the pair attempted to portray a superior kind of physicality, supported by an instrumental range that encompasses synthesis, processed field recordings, amplified springs, electric motors and radio. We all have learnt over the years that Costa Monteiro is able to draw out riveting sonic kernels from theoretically non-reactive sources, paper included; the lumpy waves and emaciated ellipses generated by Matthews appear as optimal counterparts in this statement, difficult to file in absence of unquestionable reference points. Maybe a less expensive version of some of Iannis Xenakis’ mythical discharges would make for a (barely) adequate delineation of certain parts of this CD: dozens of high-strung fragments smeared by crude compulsions, the theoretical coldness deriving from whirring appliances, the incandescent ebullience of a natural irregularity. All of the above is balanced by the “softer” traits of an inexhaustible matter, a little relief given by the gradual flutter of the oscillators and by the stasis brought by several layers of droning materials. When warped voices from the ether surprise us in semi-relaxed stance, we instantly know that it’s time to go back to the initial defensive posture.
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
Matthews may be best known to some PT readers as a saxophonist and Monteiro as an accordionist, but on this deliciously frosty five-track record each situates himself deep in the gears of sound-making devices. Matthews is credited with «digital synthesis» and «manipulated field recordings», Monteiro with amplified strings, electric motors and radio. Through these devices, the pair make of disparate sounds their own bestiary, whose forward march is a terrific listen. «Aconite» is like listening through barriers to the sound of paper, exhaust tube and the grind of machines. A deep rush of air opens the lengthy «Crookneck» in an unfolding oscillation, which seems to summon lapping waves of low tones and whining metal. What makes the track, more than the lovely coalescing low drones, is the appearance of a tertiary layer midway through, a stylus or some kind of metal probe sounding as if it’s trying to break into the piece. A crackling snare is morphed into whorls of sound on «Flounder», with the amplified springs very effective here. And after the tightly controlled sizzle and bowed glass on «Haven», there’s a final layering of permafrost along with moaning rusty faucets on «Savory». Curiously, during the late moments of this track, it sounds like some distorted Japanese instructional tape vocals emerge from the tape slashing and power tools. A message buried or offered for our puzzlement?
Jason Bivins, Paris Transatlantique
Au départ, les expérimentations électroniques et numériques de l’avant-garde musicale pouvaient sembler austères, hermétiques, froides, ou même insensées pour certains. Mais après soixante années de recherches et de tentatives parfois réussies, parfois échouées, un véritable langage musical a pu se constituer et se structurer au-delà des concepts et de l’expérimentation. Un langage organique et humain, parfois poétique, plus ressenti à travers les émotions (sans que ce soit nécessairement la douleur comme chez Karkovski par exemple), que compris par la raison. Et c’est bien ce que parvient à nous prouver une fois de plus la collaboration entre ces deux artistes sonores que j’admire: Wade Matthews et Alfredo Costa Monteiro. Oui le langage musical et sonore, qu’il soit numérique, électronique ou électroacoustique, est véritablement arrivé à pleine maturité. Pour Winter, une suite de cinq tableaux structurés et composés avant tout par la sensibilité, le premier utilise des field-recordings manipulés et des synthèses digitales, tandis que son collaborateur jour avec des cordes amplifiées, des moteurs électriques et des radios.
Au regard de ces sources sonores fondamentalement composées d’électricité et de codes informatiques, du titre et de la pochette parsemée de cristaux, on pourrait facilement s’attendre à une musique froide et austère. D’un côté, c’est exact, la plupart des morceaux sont constitués sur de longues basses abyssales, sur des drones sombres qui semblent extirpés des profondeurs de la croûte terrestre, comme si on était plongé à l’intérieur d’une pompe d’extraction de pétrole. Il y a toujours un aspect linéaire et ambient assez marqué à travers ces cinq plages pas si glacées. Car parallèlement à ce drone ambiant et sombre, chaque piste fourmille de bruits parasites, principalement électriques, de larsens et de moteurs, de fréquences radios et de bruits blancs, mais aussi d’enregistrements étranges, d’enregistrements sous-marins aux réverbérations hallucinantes. Et ce sont tous ces bruits, parfois inouïs mais toujours inattendus, qui font de Winter un disque vivant, chaleureux, sensible et organique. Wade Matthews et Alfredo Costa Monteiro produisent des textures continues, corrosives et sombres comme de la lave, mais constamment ponctuées d’éléments inattendus. Ponctuées de parasites organiques qui entraînent fractures et discontinuités tout en révélant la sensibilité et l’inventivité de ce duo, qui révèlent en fait la volonté esthétique ainsi que l’origine humaine et artistique de ce duo formidable qui se cache derrière des câbles, des écrans et des installations qui peuvent paraître hermétiques.
Chaque pièce de Winter constitue en soi un univers surprenant, riche et extrêmement dense. Un univers exceptionnel qui ne ressemble à aucun autre et où se révèlent la sensibilité aussi bien que l’intelligence des deux musiciens en totale osmose. Une intelligence qui se retrouve notamment dans la structure claire et la continuité des pièces, tandis que les ruptures et la fusion des sons pourtant très différents et individualisés révèlent quant à elles la sensibilité et l’humanité de ce duo.
Hautement créatif et inventif, clair et très sensible, Winter rassemble cinq pièces électroacoustiques qui fourmillent de détails et respirent la vie, aussi bien terrestre, qu’humaine ou animale. Des détails que l’on découvre ou redécouvre à chaque écoute, et qui nécessitent une écoute tout de même assez forte. En fait, on ne se lasse pas de Winter et on reste apparemment émerveillé à jamais: vivement recommandé!
Julien Héraud, improv sphère