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Ernesto Rodrigues / Manuel Mota / Gabriel Paiuk - Dorsal

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Artist: Ernesto Rodrigues / Manuel Mota / Gabriel Paiuk

Album: Dorsal

Label: Creative Sources

Review date: Aug. 25, 2004

Over the last several years, the young Portuguese label Creative Sources has become one of the most intriguing out there, occupying a spot on the improvisational music spectrum similar to that of Rossbin and Potlatch. Initially focused on the Iberian scene in particular, head honcho Ernesto Rodrigues – who is a marvelous improvising violist and is featured on many Creative Sources releases – has shifted away from geographic specificity and is now attuned simply to subtle but tough improvisations which test instrumental conventions and lean gently into the bathing pool of electroacoustic music.

On this fine disc, Rodrigues meets up with the enigmatic guitarist Manuel Mota and pianist Gabriel Paiuk for a very arch set of chamber improvisations. Paiuk is the new name to me and his playing is seriously restrained – as is that of his partners – poised somewhere between the unpredictable harmonic commentary of Agusti Fernandez and the sparseness of John Tilbury: Paiuk’s punctuation of Rodrigues’ languorous, laminal statements. Mota, who favors a cryptic, almost hermetic style of guitar playing – clean tone, clipped lines, with occasional bursts of static from a brutalized input jack or pickup toggle – is the disruptive element here, harshly derailing the whisper-soft bowing or ringing piano chord here and there.

Though the trio language is fine and compelling, it’s Rodrigues who inevitably catches my attention. He is so good here, using extended techniques as creatively as violist Charlotte Hug and, though his phrasing is completely different, Mat Maneri. He effortlessly combines dirty, grainy sounds with sweeping drone-like washes.

At times, their interlocked playing recalls the excellent new music group the Abel/Steinberg/Winant Trio (when the tones become drones, I can’t help but think of that group’s marvelous reading of Alvin Curran’s “Schtyx”). They excel at huge, resounding blocks of sound whose tonality fluctuates ever so slightly, creating a hypnotic, almost psychedelic effect. Elsewhere, Mota sounds like a chorus of ringing bells – not too far off from some of Taku Sugimoto’s playing, once upon a time – with Rodrigues and Paiuk at their most percussive in contrast. And if the more staccato or pizzicato passages occasionally seem a bit tentative, that’s not much of a knock on this empathetic trio. Another fine release from one of the improv labels to watch.

By Jason Bivins

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