This quintet was captured on tape at 2008 at Lisbon’s “Música Portuguesa Hoje” festival. The instrumentation comprises harp, soprano sax, viola, cello and electronics, the character of the performance definitely oriented towards “disquietingly acoustic” regions, all sounds tactfully positioned in barely ruptured reticence.
The set begins with a subdued measured escalation of electroacoustic humus in which we already notice a series of minimal movements drawing our absorption closer. After five minutes or so, strings become the object of a deeper attention in a superb superimposition of opaque droning and minutely introspective percussion, solitary notes and meagre plucks slightly altering an otherwise semi-frozen inspection of the propagations of these sounds in a restricted space. The electronics remain perceivable amidst skilled spurts: they keep coming in and out, either shuddering or just audible, the unclothed beauty generated by the arc of a noiseless whisper, a mere unbroken hiss enhanced by the air flowing through the saxophone’s conduits.
The upper partials, principally in the higher ranges of the instruments, constitute the cutting blade that filters humdrum off reflection, an ever-difficult task in an improvising group, yet in this case a nonexistent problem given the inner-ear depth shown by the participants. The alternating of piercingly scraping layers of raucously squealing pitches with sections whose quintessence can be individuated in a fusion of quasi-silence and wretchedly foggy reverberation is the very basis of a masterful despoliation of the harmonic tissue, often punctuated by impressive convergence of timbres that almost sound pre-planned but surely aren’t. Those are the instances in which the music flourishes entirely and, at large, the validating paradigm of the superiority of responsive give-and-take as opposed to the routine-drenched execution of a well known practice — something that, for example, onkyo has come dangerously close to nowadays. In a word, we detect the wholesomeness that free improvisation should hypothetically warrant, a lost quality in the bulk of modern “art” where counterfeit commitment soon morphs into trendy posture.
In the last third of the program the musicians appear intent in finding a definite place for each instrument, not exactly infringing rules, rather continuing to look for the ideal balance between uneasiness and unprocessed resonance. The stridency characterizing the instinctive counterpoint around the 28th minute is an example of this, and the restlessness of never-resolving “chords” finally gives room to a sort of conclusion in which the breathing, although still restrained, becomes somewhat more regular, if always with an eye open, nerves not allowed to relax completely.
A significant piece of work, especially when considering that it was recorded live (luckily, audience and metropolitan noises — often seriously distracting factors — remained outside this time), Twrf Neus Ciglau easily ranks among the best in the recent cluster of releases by the horizon-expanding Creative Sources label.