Diaz-Infante / Rodrigues / Robair / Mota – Our Faceless Empire

(Pax Recordings) 

This CD comprises the sonic outcome of a meeting that occurred in Oakland in 2006 between two couples of improvisers, one Portuguese (Manuel Mota on electric guitar, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola), the other Californian (Ernesto Diaz-Infante on acoustic guitar, Gino Robair on his customary “energized surfaces/voltage made audible” palette). The keyword is “moderate discordance”: the artists’ dissimilar backgrounds and the reasonable unsteadiness of the textural tapestry don’t give many chances for an accurate categorization of this music. The album is released by one of the historic labels dealing with the documentation of the alternative scene in the Bay Area, PAX, but could have easily been published by Rodrigues’ Creative Sources, finding similarities in a number of records from that imprint.

In that sense, there’s no actual point in attempting a mere description of the events, given the fickleness and the variegated poverty (meant as a compliment) resulting from the interplay. More than rejoicing for a collective accomplishment, we appreciate the manifest peculiarities of the single timbres, utilized either as silence-probing factors or as a response to instrumental questions that otherwise would risk remaining unanswered and unremembered. The strings are scraped, plucked, hit and picked according to the spur of the moment, the temperate disparity between acoustic and electric guitar among the interesting features in the general picture.

The proliferation of asymmetrical spurts (enhanced by Robair’s educated noise-making) and the influence of relatively static segments — “Um Lilburn Em Flovilla” a favorite in its delicate droning — balance the whole effectively, although certain extended pitches (replete with jarring harmonics) derived from the viola involve the brain quite a bit. And yet, the core of the matter remains fragmentary, uneven, occasionally harsh but absolutely not invasive. An intelligent demonstration of restrained electroacoustic multiplicity that keeps good company for almost 50 minutes.




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