Back in May, Eyal Hareuveni reviewed the first two releases from newly-formed Cipsela Records. Since then, the Coimbra-based label continues to build on its strong start with two new duo albums: one with cellist Daniel Levin and alto saxophonist Rob Brown, the other, harpist Angélica V. Salvi and label-founder Marcelo dos Reis (whose thoughtful guitar work has been turning heads lately in groups like Fail Better! and on the recent album Chamber 4).
Daniel Levin & Rob Brown – Divergent Paths (Cipsela, 2015) ****
Long centerpiece “Dialogue” in many ways subverts a free jazz trope. The term “dialogue” itself is one of the limits we brush up against when trying to talk about this music: what it describes would be chaotic in literal terms, as though a conversation could remain coherent if all the participants continually spoke over one another. But Levin’s and Brown’s “Dialogue” at times really feels like a conversation. There are extended solo passages from each musician, rather like statements and rebuttals. Brown spends a lot of time in wispy altissimo heights while Levin ranges widely, quoting folky motifs or imitating the saxophone. It’s a varied, modestly-paced repartee, capped by the brief and bracing closer “Match Point.” A strong entry in the Cipsela catalog.
Marcelo dos Reis & Angélica V. Salvi - Concentric Rinds (Cipsela, 2015) ****
The tracks that begin Concentric Rinds are beautiful, unhurried, imbrued with the fullness of the resonant warehouse in which they were recorded. Dos Reis’s acoustic guitar and Salvi’s harp have similar timbres, intertwining into kaleidoscopic figures in the ambiguous middle ground between the instruments. The harmony and rhythm in “Spirals” has the organized, organic feel of music by composers like Terry Riley or Duane Pitre, with dos Reis preparing his guitar and playing it like a hammered dulcimer. While the duo often opts for a sound of peaceful concordance, there are bouts of more antagonistic interplay, as on “Convex” and “Concave.” Most striking is “Depth.” Beginning with harp that sounds more like tuned percussion than strings, it eventually builds to a wailing threnody of dos Reis’s sorrowful, wordless vocals and coarsely-bowed guitar. Thoughit starts in a more conventional tonal manner than a lot of free improvisation, Concentric Rinds gets increasingly adventurous as it progresses, closing with “Surface,” which has shimmering, friction-induced tones not unlike Eddie Prévost’s work with bowed cymbals.
A remark in the liners seems an important reminder: “this is how we sounded one day in February 2013,” dos Reis writes. Not “this is the sound of our duo,” but instead, a nod to the ephemerality of a music that never stops changing. Now, at the time of its release in 2015, they may sound very different, indeed.