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If, Bwana with/and/by Trio Scordatura: E (and sometimes why)

img  Tobias Fischer

Meaning is over-rated. At least to If, Bwana mastermind Al Margolis, it would seem. In complete opposition to a new music scene obsessed by cerebral programs and concepts, E (and sometimes why) passionately uses the vocabulary of the 20th century and strips it of its intellectual grammar. Ignoring the ultra-clever and ultimately undetectable-to-the-naked-ear constructive principles of contemporary composition and instead borrowing only Webern and Boulez's refined sense of aesthetics - their repertoire of wondrous gestures - is a wonderfully subversive move, resulting in a style which is serious, yet sensual; mysterious, yet inviting; complex, yet deeply human. A lot of the music contained on this double-disc collection deals with surface frictions, with the overlapping, rubbing-against-each-other and variations of and between two or more layers of sustained strings, trombone and voice. And yet, the music ventures far beyond the pureness of the drone, the serenity of microtonal shifts. On "All for Al(frun)", Margolis creates a field composed entirely of different pitches of Trio Scordatura's Alfrun Schmid's voice, an inwardly oscillating cluster of constantly recombining constellations, a mystical meditation on mutability and permanence. "The Tempest, Fuggit", meanwhile, pits extracts of Shakespeare against discrete electronic soundscapes and Elisabeth Smalt's pizzicatoed viola, deconstructing the narrative into loose strands of syntax. With the Scordaturas either performing entire compositions, playing alongside pre-recorded tapes or being used as source materials, there is, at times, an element of hyperrealism at work here, the sensation of a man-machine at play. Replacing the musicians with data is never the point, however. Instead, for Margolis, the electronic medium allows him to make the human contributions even more important, inclusive and diverse, opening up a wealth of new possibilities for the relationship between the composer and the performer. Beside the at times mesmerising qualities of the music, that, in itself, is quite a meaningful statement.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Pogus Records