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CD Feature/ Marcos Fernandes & Bill Horist: "Jerks and Creeps"

img  Tobias

There’s a story of how Bill Horist invited the audience at one of his performances to take along anything they wanted for him to improvise with on his guitar and someone brought a six foot ladder. The anecdote goes some way in portraying Horist as a man with a love for exploring his instrument in unusual ways – and as a musician who found more inspiration in John Cage’s prepared piano studies than in the “Concerto d’Aranjuez”.

Marcos Fernandes, vive versa, has been known for considering drums and percussions rather as tools to produce sound instead of  beats – or at least not the ones you’d encounter in a standard dancing class. Both share an affinity for solo projects and the studio as well as for the stage and spontaneous interactions – which is probably why “Jerks and Creeps” has all the traits of a work immersed in improvisation, while flowing with the congruency of a well-structured symphony.

Compared to Frenandes’ previous efforts, at least, this record is remarkably easy to digest: “A Mountain is a Mammal” was a razorsharp percussive feverdream, which sent my girlfriend running from the room and had my neighbours complaining, while the far-beyond-its-time “Haco Hans Jakob Marcos” almost required a pair of 22nd century ears to be enjoyed. This time, however, the whole fabric of the music is more subtle and resonates with an emotional fragility.

The nervous edges have not disappeared and there are ample high-frequency tone modulations, brusque mood swings and weird samples (of an oriental bazar, for example) to be found in all of these three pieces. And yet, Marcos and Bill are always searching for integration, for a dialogue, a trialogue or a general understanding between the various elements making up “Jerks and Creeps”. Quite organically, the structures seem to gradually peel themselves off their external influence and drift off into the ether, turning self-sufficient and beginning a life of their own.

Horist and Fernandes hardly exert any pressure at all, they gently steer the music from one stretch to the next, relying on a pool of powerful sounds, clustered drones and their collaboration with a host of guests – all of which seem to agree that if your instrument sounds the way it sounds by default, you’re doing something wrong: Masafumi Ezaki supposedly plays trumpet on second piece “Osaka” and Tim Olive is quoted as providing bass lines on the same track, but if there’s anyone out there capable of telling me the “when and where” of their appearances, may they please step forward.

All of this suggests that the purpose of the encounter lay in stripping the music bare of obvious references, of using a particular piece of equipment for one’s own proficiency in playing it, but not for the sake of its timbre or all of the associations which come with it. Quite on the contrary, everything that carries an all too obvious history has no place on “Jerks and Creeps”. The album feeds from the sense of disorientation, which comes with finding one’s place amidst alien structures, and then gently guides the listener down the most beautiful path through this terra incognita.

Maybe this is also why the duo allows harmony and melody in more than ever before. Especially the half-an-hour long “Kobe” offers a shimmering and swooning middle section full of lush bass vibrations, while the short appendix “Kobe 2” surprises with a sense of concreteness and a strange, gravitating rhythmic pulse.

If there is a message behind these compositions, then it must be that one needs to first throw away everything one has learnt to revel in the magic of melancholic memories. Bill Horist and Marcos Fernandes have stayed true to their roots in improvisation and experimentation yet their absolute will to build something from deconstructed parts and to firmly organise fragmented elements shines through clearer than ever. Still curious about what happened with that ladder.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Marcos Fernandes
Homepage: Bill Horist
Homepage: Accretions Records

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