Variable Geometry Orchestra – Quasar

(Creative Sources)

The Variable Geometry Orchestra — 46 instrumentalists for this release — is just one among the innumerable projects engendered by the hyperactivity of Creative Sources boss Ernesto Rodrigues. In a respectable large improvising ensemble, the role of the conductor (Rodrigues himself in this case) is essential to make such a massive accumulation of instrumental nuances wander along genre-dissolving borders. If individualities are practically forgotten in the name of so-called “collective vibe”, a potential risk exists on the listener’s side to get knocked senseless by a jumble of spontaneous spurts that may not necessarily imply genuine art. Luckily this does not occur in Quasar, although we’re not reporting about the second coming of Septober Energy.

The lone 31-minute piece (titled “Apparent Magnitude”) might be depicted as a sort of primordial soup in which embryos of contrapuntal intuition try to morph into extemporaneous scores, their stratification occasionally generating an unsuspected raw beauty. The musicians appear to be seriously tripping inside a constant dynamic flexibility; this notwithstanding, the sonic geology reveals a balance in the acoustic ground that is never rendered precarious by the inborn timbral qualities of the preponderant sub-groups. Whispered pulses can be followed by rumbling crescendos; mysterious clusters are subjected to glissando-induced liquefaction; major blasts do happen, one of them concluding the album. In selected segments, a pregnant micro-activity gives some room for sparse instruments to express a modicum of phrasing, as if a bit of chatter between the players were needed to recharge batteries while waiting for the next surges.

I strongly recommend to listen to this record more than once, and in diverse settings. Unexpected shades, charged reverberations (courtesy of St. George’s Church) and liberating outbursts are exalted by a quiet space, whereas if you want to catch a few glimpses of the myriads of diminutive suggestions — in addition to inhaling the refreshing sincerity of the performers — then headphones are definitely required. Either way, thumbs up without second thoughts or wishes of aesthetic improvement. In this orchestra, everyone’s humble voice translates into One Voice.