Guilherme Rodrigues / David Area / Guillermo Torres / Tomas Gris – Aleph

(Creative Sources)

It was, I believe, 2003 when my fraternization with Creative Sources began, and with it the experience of previously unheard-of combinations of ineffable sonorities and unique talents in disparate improvisational milieus. Cellist and composer Guilherme Rodrigues — the son of label honcho Ernesto — was 15 at that time, this writer well remembering his smiles of gladness in front of such a young kid fully immersed in unusual environments, yet expressing his voice like a veteran. Quite often the early albums from the Portuguese imprint featured ensembles that, exactly as this quartet, were proposing valuable methods to snatch compelling sounds from the jaws of silence. That silence was not just a superficial symbol hiding pretentious attitudes: the air was truly pregnant of peculiar signals to be captured, understood and re-synthesized into new forms of knowledge.

Fourteen years later the question is: am I really willing to keep listening to this type of material? Can expert listeners find elements of interest in contingencies and junctions that have been heard thousands of times by now? It might be too easy to answer with a firm “no”, and ultimately it would be a huge error. In fact, Aleph — in absence of groundbreaking intuitions — still represents a valid alternative to the blasé listlessness that has become a trademark in many and one post-Cage/pseudo-zen contexts. It manages to transmit an appreciable degree of liveliness in a place where undertones, murmurs, shrilling frequencies and out-and-out noises coexist without excessive problems.

The two live tracks, lasting 34 and 7 minutes respectively, show a stark contrast between the “mortal” instruments (Rodrigues’ cello and Gris’ cornet) and the cochlea-pricking emissions of sinewaves (Area) and synthesizer (Torres). While segments exist where a modicum of tentativeness momentarily succeeds in dismantling the walls of acoustic cohesion, luckily the bulk of this disc comprises attractive structural fragments and resonating constituents capable of awakening the inner ear’s responsiveness. The strictly timbral traits and the general temperament may vary — from wheezing to excruciatingly throbbing, with remnants of concrete objectivity scattered around — but the collective spirit animating the interplay doesn’t. It’s called honesty, and you can still perceive its presence here. But only after having delivered the mind from the excesses of critical analysis.