Alessandra Rombolà | flutes, tiles & preparations
Rhodri Davies | electric harp & electronics
Ingar Zach | percussion, drone commander & sruti box
|01 | driphlith | 10:16
02 | encilion | 08:44
03 | goriwaered | 05:5932
04 | hafflau | 11:28
05 | llinyn | 05:39
06 | osgo | 07:44
all music by muta
recorded by fadi tabbal on the 8th of april 2009, at tunefork studio, beirut
edited by ingar zach – mixed & mastered by giuseppe ielasi
artwork & design by mazen kerbaj
produced in lebanon by al maslakh & muta all rights reserved (TONO/PRS)
thanks to mazen kerbaj, sharif sehnaoui, nayla bustros, fadi zakher, daniele, angharad closs stephens
Still really busy, my feet just haven’t touched the floor since getting off the train back from Scotland. Tonight I grabbed a couple of hours respite as Julie cooked for us in an attempt to remember who I was, but otherwise its been so hectic here. I have managed to listen to one CD three or four times today though and so will share a few brief thoughts on it so as to not dump you with another completely vacant post again. The disc in question is Bricolage, a new release by MUTA, the trio of Alessandra Rombola, Rhodri Davies and Ingar Zach.
Now, in light of my recent posting about the Instal Festival, it would probably be wrong for me to just slip straight back into writing CD reviews again without addressing some of the concerns about this that Instal threw up for me. Up in Glasgow some (certainly not all) parties made it clear that they considered improvised music to be a boring, no longer politically positive force in the world, and CDs of improvised music were then singled out as being a thoroughly negative aspect of it all again. During the festival discussions I stood my ground on the importance and validity of improvisation in today’s music, and will continue to do so here. While yes, various elements of improv have become formalised and flattened out into semi-defineable genres in recent times, and plenty of the music on offer has lacked much more than going-through-the-motions averageness, the actual act of group improvisation, no matter how interesting the end result might be, is a valuable and socially important tool that enhances the potential for collaborative expression rather than damage it. One of the commenters here, Matthew Wuethrich also made a valid statement that he didn’t see why he should feel guilty for merely enjoying listening to music that he has found repeatedly interesting and stimulating. I have to agree here as well. Some of the most invigorating and mentally stimulating music I have ever heard has been improvisation, and while yes it is important that we recognise that as more and more CDs appear the percentage of really valuable releases isn’t rising alongside it, there is still plenty to be gained from simply engaging with an improv CD.
I suspect that if Mattin was here listening to the MUTA CD with me now he would either switch it off or leave the room. In many ways Bricolage is a good example of what annoys him so much about modern improvisation- the sounds used are vaguely predictable, as are their placement and structure. It isn’t hard to find a handy genre into which the CD can easily be slotted, and most of us have heard similar music before. So it is easy to suggest that the disc may not have any value- but I would thoroughly disagree here.
The Challenging/conceptual/political versus the aesthetically beautiful/textural/tonal debate has been something i have addressed here before recently, and my feelings remain unchanged. There is room for both types of music, and I can think of good reasons why both should exist and be enjoyed, if perhaps in different ways and for different reasons. This MUTA disc then is one that I can put on and just wallow in. Rombola plays flute, tiles and preparations, Davies his electric harp set-up and Ingar Zach percussion, drone commander and sruti box. The sounds they make are the classic mix of the tonal and textural, smooth and jagged. The music matches these opposing polarities up in ways we are familiar with, but no two records are exactly the same, and listening to Bricolage there is plenty in here that excites me, plenty that sets the disc apart from other releases and holds my interest. Throughout most of the six tracks here there are bit and pieces of rhythm to be heard, often fast clicks or pulses rather than drummed patterns, sometimes continuous, sometimes falling in fits and starts. There is a feeling of slightly demented clockwork here, perhaps an overwound mechanism that often feels like it will go one way or the other, calming back down into a regular pulse or falling apart into chaos. Throughout the album both eventualities emerge.
This CD is just good to listen to. Its a gristly, muscular affair underpinned by the faltering rhythms and a restlessness that keeps any sense of droning at bay. Engaging with the music, trying to retrospectively join the musicians in their collaboration is an exhilarating, rewarding exercise. So this music isn’t going to bring an end to capitalism overnight, but I would suggest that sharing to some degree in the act of free group improvisation is a positive thing to do, and the more that music making of this kind can be encouraged, so the cultural world will be a better place. Now, that’s the last time I make an excuse for just enjoying good improvised music. Great, fun sleeve too, released on Al-Maslakh records.
The Watchfull Ear | Richard Pinnell
Ces travaux de Bricolage sont ceux de Muta, le disque est leur second. Comme sur Yesterday Night You Were Sleeping at My Place, Alessandra Rombolá (flûtes, préparations), Rhodri Davies (harpe électrique, electronics) et Ingar Zach (percussion, drone commander, scruti box), composent avec leurs qualités et leur entente.
Alors, on pourrait reprendre, pour définir cette musique d’établi, les mêmes termes qu’hier – drones encore et pièces sombres autant – auxquels ajouter les éléments d’un langage commun au vocabulaire fourni davantage et dont une roue motorisée disperse les éléments : Rombolá traînant sur le carreau quelques uns de ceux-là lorsqu’elle n’ouvre pas le corps de sa flûte à un bestiaire hurlant ; Davies progressant en discret dans sa forêt de cordes électriques ; Zach commandant tous allumages de moteurs minuscules ou transformant sa cymbale en autre machine à drones.
Célébrer pour finir la persistante angoisse enfantée par la seconde rencontre de Muta sur disque. Au mixage, cette fois, Giuseppe Ielasi : pas étranger non plus aux râles magnifiques du cerbère bricolant.
Le Son du Grisli | Guillaume Belhomme
You'll find "bricolage" has some pretty heavy duty philosophical associations if you scout around the www a bit (assuming you have a taste for Derrida's superabundant signifiers and Guattari's machinic phylums), but as far as I'm concerned it's the French translation for DIY. And I'm bloody lousy at it, unlike the three expert bricoleurs here, Alessandra Rombolà (flutes, tiles and preparations), Rhodri Davies (electric harp and electronics) and Ingar Zach (percussion, sruti box and drone commander, that latter being "two manually-tuned oscillators and two LFOs, plus an unusually colorful and nasty filter"). Problems with your water pipes? Rombolà explores the innards of her flutes better than any plumbers snake or hand auger could do. And if she has to drill a hole in your bathroom wall she'll retile the place beautifully afterwards. Need to rewire your house? Rhodri's the man – Gino Robair (another odd job man par excellence) once described his kit as "voltage made audible", and that'd be a fine description of Davies's subtle work here – and if you need anything doing in the way of joinery, Zach's probably got the tool for the job to hand, if the sheer range of sounds he conjures forth from his instruments is anything to go by. Sounds like he could give you a decent haircut and carve your Sunday roast to perfection too. You might be tempted to file this one away under "EAI", but, slow tempo and dynamic restraint aside, it's remarkably active stuff on the surface, and our three protagonists aren't afraid of making a glorious mess when they get busy. Happily, engineer Fadi Tabbal at Beirut's Tunefork Studios and mixmaster Giuseppe Ielasi are around to make sure the place is spick and span when the job's done.
Paris Transatlantic | Dan Warburton
Quite the collective, MUTA makes soundscapes from a cooperative effort that is nearly solo-free. That is, the trio of flautist Alessandra Rombolà, electric harpist Rhodri Davies and percussionist Ingar Zach set aside any individual ambition on Bricolage, to create a consistent and cogent statement.
Formed in 2003, the players have one previous release, Yesterday Night You Were Sleeping At My Place (Sofa, 2007). Their approach of slowly building upon minimal sounds, drones, and altered pitches occupies the field of electronics, but more so the trio relies heavily on its own instruments and each players' extended techniques.
Each piece explores differing textures and tones. "Ilinyn" is sort of a buzzing electronics project that changes into a clattering metallic trek, with gargling flute and varies pieces and parts shuffled. That shuffling—or better, mingling—is a common theme here. "Goriwaered" begins and ends with no reference points, somehow existing in popping percussiveness and electronic sizzle. Rombolá's flutes and tiles sometimes have air passing through or over them to stimulate a feeling more tactile than aural. When she does exercise her flute, it is a response to Davies' solid tone generation, and Zach's bowed percussion work.
Each piece acts as sort of a comment on a minimalist structure, an unhurried, mostly rhythm-free construction of sound. Quite an impressive accomplishment.
All About Jazz | Mark Corroto
La flautista calabrese Alessandra Rombolà, l'arpista gallese Rhodri Davies e il percussionista norvegese Ingar Zach, tutti discreti giramondo, compongono il trio Muta, di cui questo Bricolage (titolo assai emblematico) è stato inciso nell'aprile 2009 ed è edito dalla libanese Al Maslakh.
Vi convivono in sostanziale equità (e simbiosi) rumorismo ed elettronica, lungo tracciati marcatamente sperimentali a cui i flauti della Rombolà conferiscono, a spot, un minimo di umanizzazione. Al di là di un'idea sicuramente forte, e anche lodevole, non si può in effetti negare che il lavoro risenta di una certa aridità e staticità, un fin troppo insistito indulgere su situazioni "povere," ripetute e scarsamente coinvolgenti (ammesso che sia questo un canone estetico plausibile, oltre che un traguardo che il gruppo si pone). Brani un po' più articolati quali "Goriwaered" e il conclusivo "Osgo" rappresentano in questa prospettiva i momenti più apprezzabili del lavoro.
All About Jazz Italia | Alberto Bazzurro
There’s nothing rococo or impressionistic about Bricolage’s improvisations, which take full sonic advantage of the electronics developed since Cardew’s time as an avant gardist. Almost without exception the undercurrent includes variants of processed harp timbres, organ-like layered drones from the sruti box and expanding puffs and verbalism from the flute that grows ever wider as the tunes develop. A prime example of this is “Encilion”, which is studded with scrapes and friction produced from unyielding objects; rustling and stopped strings; and what could be the sound of marbles striking dense surfaces. “Driphlith” on the other hand exposes irregular diaphragm-forced breaths from the flutist; inconsistent twangs, plucks and picking from the harpist; and the percussionist demonstrating happens when sticks are rotated, bounced and struck against hard surfaces following jack-hammer-like reverberations.
Nonetheless the most illustrative examples of this triple interface occur during the more-than-13-minutes of adjoining “Llinyn” and “Osgo”. Culminating in a slowly vanishing layered ostinato that gives way to a climax of piccolo-pitched tones and percussive clip-clops, the narrative begins with what sounds like an auto motor turning over mixed with pulsating electronic impulses. As acoustic as it is electronic, the first piece also includes heavily vibrated flute multiphonics; resonating multi-string plunks, with the strings further excited by an e-bow; plus watery pops, shuffles and smacks produced by the cumulative use of chimes, claves, a wood block and a cow bell.
Jazz Word | Ken Waxman
Witty name for an album, especially when one reads “tiles” associated to Alessandra Rombolá’s flutes and preparations. Muta’s other members are Rhodri Davies on electric harp and electronics, and Ingar Zach on percussion, sruti box and what’s called “drone commander”. These recordings, happened in 2009 in Beirut, show how textural tampering can still yield copious harvests when the starting ideas are unequivocal. The fundamental coordinates around which the musicians carry out the researching are those of cultivated clatter, puissant humming and ringing upper partials, intermittently spiced with insistent popping manifestations applied by Rombolá via tongue-smacking patterns accompanying the whole. In the initial “Driphlith”, this originates a growingly charged amassment of never-unkempt frequencies, totally mesmerizing to hear and dissect in its varying components. Fixed pitches and pulsating bowing run parallel to animal-like grunts and gurgles in the subsequent “Encilion”, the absorbing exfoliation of a monolithic structure immersed in Lucier-esque vibrations; the eardrums cry mercy at the end.
Throughout the disc, Muta let us see the sort of self-incentive that transforms a nude materiality into something that, acoustically speaking, disjoins the corporeal aspects of playing from an analytical approach to the performance. Their work belongs to a sphere of ascetic concreteness that is infrequent nowadays, the resounding implications inevitably pushing the right buttons in a responsive beneficiary. The awesome “Hafflau” – a menacing cluster of drones escorted by gradually accelerating toneless clumps and rubbed objects – exudes consistency while thrilling persistently, symbolizing the unshakable concentration transpiring from the entire record. Among the many, Bricolage will definitely appeal to fans of artistic entities such as Jgrzinich, Michael Northam, Seth Nehil and Jim Haynes in virtue of a balanced recipe of instrumental and tactile ingredients.
Touching Extremes | Massimo Ricci
Last week I packed my bag full of mostly clean clothes, plied myself with day-old coffee and drove down to Chicago to see my sister and catch Dans Les Arbres play at the Chicago Cultural Center. It was a free show, part of their series with some delightfully pretentious name that plagues this kind of stuff, like New Noise or Hidden Voices. It was probably a bad life decision to slam a beer and pop a bar of Xanax before the show, but sitting among the grey hair improv freaks already practicing their best to appear studious and appraising, hands firmly tucked under chins (thinking about the piles of kult merch they’re going to buy after the show no doubt), I realized it might have been one of the few right life decisions I’ve made lately. Certainly it made the show feel more lilting and introspective, less heavily indebted to the art school society slum. But let’s just say the my recollections of the music played by Ingar Zach, Ivar Greidland, Xavier Charles and Christian Wallumrød are probably a little hazy. I do remember distinctly the opening five minutes when Zach lightly tapped a few gongs that were hanging over his massive bass drum in a ritualistic manner and Wallumrød sat motionless at the piano, staring at the keys. It was languid and stunning, reminding me of a kind of Gamelan on Quaaludes; the only thing missing was the haze of clove cigarettes. The others played nicely I’m sure; but, really, Zach was the only thing I could concentrate on for more than a couple of minutes as I drifted in an out of consciousness, jerking suddenly awake just before my forehead could crash into the seat in front of me, probably ruining the bliss out for the poor dude in front of me. The whole concert had an aqueous feeling (which couldn‘t of been just the Xanax but…), as though I was drifting in hazy water filled with slowly waving weeds and schools of fish. At one point Zach rubbed a dowel against the bass drum, and a subterranean rumble issued forth — Cthulu, if only for a moment, awoke. Ultimately, it was Zach’s show for me, as his playing was so perceptive, so arresting in its slow, thoughtful momentum.
One would be remiss to assume Muta’s album, Bricolage, on the Lebanese label Al Maslakh, is purely a showcase for Zach, however; even if his percussion becomes a sort of guiding presence. I’m relatively new to Muta, as I missed the release on Sofa, but along with Zach, it includes Rhodri Davies on electronic harp and electronics, and Alessandra Rombolá on flutes, tiles and preparations. According to Muta’s website, they search “…for changes and variation in musical structures and slow/minimal developments of specific sounds and/or pitches,” while trying to achieve a unified group sound. And this is readily apparent, as each track seems to explore a certain set of sounds, momentums and strategies.
The first track on Bricolage, “driphlith” is a shuddering, percussive excursion that, when played loudly, can shake the walls. It’s a variety of elements overlaid, and that slide up over one another. Zach’s deeply sonorous bass drum appears first, but what appears to be ebowed harp from Davies, and percussive pops from Rombola, soon follow and start to converse. “Bricolage” is an excellent word for the sounds here, because it is as if these three resourceful musicians were using whatever they had at hand to produce this music. There’s a searching pragmatism here, a metis-like quality to everything they play.
Rombolá’s a new musician for me, and her playing really comes out on “encilion;” blasts of still flute-like sound punctuates a slow moving back drop of ebows and cymbal scrapes. Rombolá ’s playing here is aggressive, vital, and bruising. You feel the back contract, the lungs burn, the physical exertion of the playing. It‘s a nice change of pace from the usual extended technique dry-heave. This style of extended playing– the air circulating, spurting out, burbling inside the instrument– is obviously not new, but she plays with such vigor and aggression here… almost as though something is at stake; and it’s not just some look-at-me trick or cynical flaunt, it means something– just what is up to you. Her flute disappears for a moment about four minutes in and what I think must be her tiles and preparations slips into focus — knives unsheathed, sharpened, flattened against the table, bent, clattering to the floor. All the while, Davies’ playing is as apt and perceptive as usual: an unchanging tone from his electric harp rings at first seemingly in the background, but, as one listens more closely, it overtakes the field, inchoate, stubborn. It’s a wonderful track, especially off set against the more droning “driphilith.”
Drone can be a dirty word in this area of music. It implies a certain kind of laziness, an easiness to the music. You can layer up a couple of guitars and a pump organ and there you go — a one way trip to nirvana, to outer space, to limited run screen printed tapes. Play a drone and you provoke the listener– you tell them just what you want them the feel; you mask their own feelings under an emotional weight not earned. I don’t hate the drone necessarily, it has its uses. And while some of Bricolage could be considered drone, it’s far too rough for that. Elements change, noises fluctuate, the musicians are too concerned with trying out something new, reaching that new destination. Wherever, whatever that is.
“Goriwaered” is more electronic in a sense, or at least the electronic edges fray more in the distorted pits and pops, under fried scrapes and a patina of electronic scum. It’s highly percussive, with very little forward movement. A bass drum sounds, a knuckle against the hull of a schooner. And at 4:00 or so there is the first moment of respite, where sounds are let to breathe a little, and bells are like nautical soundings in a darkened bay and the buzz of electric dragonflies are next to your ear. It ends suddenly; while “Hafflau” emerges into dark drone and small bubbling percussion like tiny bells or maybe a steel brush rubbing against metal surfaces . It’s not as interesting as the others. It appears slightly dull in respect to the glow of the other tracks. One hopes for it to be edited down more, as though maybe it was just a little to flabby. I’m not sure.
“llinyn” is more clatter and junk, hail swept metal sheeting, detritus thrown into the wind. And again, the juxtaposition of it in regards with “Hafflau” works really well. At one point, Rombolá (?) creates an amazing snuffling pig sound, a throat clearing rumble that is at once out of character for the group but also seems to encapsulate it so well. Sometimes it’s nice, nah, needed to just revel in sound: to sit back and bask in the odor, the feel, the grit and dirt of it. The last track, “osgo,” is fascinating, starting with a familiar percussive rocking clack, and a buzzing tone from Davies. Rombolá ’s flute approaches a more traditional tonal language, sounding nearly like a Shakuhachi. The percussion reaches a more traditional momentum, as well. Davies’ electronics hover and skim. It’s a beautiful track..
I’m interested in hearing more MUTA, and possibly seeing them live if they ever get over here. I’ll promise not to drift in and out of sleep at their show, though. From the sounds of Bricolage, it would seem almost an impossibility.
Although who knows. I do stupid things.
Excellent sleeve design by Al Maslakh (check them out)
Aphidhair | Tanner Servoss