Danish Adam Pultz Melbye, American Luke Stewart, and Italian Antoni Bertoni (who is using a prepared cello this time) are not just bass players who keep investigating the deep-tones of their instruments. These musicians are some kind of mad sonic scientists who keep expanding the experience of diving solo, deep into low, highly resonant universes.
Adam Pultz Melbye - Measures (Noema, 2017) ***½
Measures is the second solo album of Berlin-based Danish double bassist Adam Pultz Melbye, following Gullet (Barefoot Records, 2014). On Gullet, Melbye explored different free-improvisation strategies as well as the sonic qualities of the bull fiddle. On Measures, recorded in Berlin on January through March 2017, he focuses on an investigation of slow evolving, unstable and resonant textures.
The first piece “Boolean” suggests a minimalist drone that focuses on how a highly disciplined and methodical bowing of the bass creates a multilayered texture comprised of endless waves of resonant tones and overtones. On the second, title-piece Melbye’s methodical, disciplined bowing is reflected by a subtle sonic layer of sine waves that shifts the minimalist atmosphere of the resonant texture to an ethereal, at times even a transparent one, certainly more enigmatic and serene.
Measures is released on Melbye’s label Noema in an original, environmentally-conscious package, recycling pieces of broken double bass strings. Melbye with Polish visual artist Lena Czerniawska sealed each string in a vacuum pack with handwritten text by Czerniawska, reflecting upon the impermanence of the physical world.
Washington DC based Luke Stewart is a busy, resourceful man. He plays the double bass and saxophone in Irreversible Entanglements, Laughing Man, James Brandon Lewis Trio, Trio OOO, Ancestral Duo and in few more groups. He is also a booker, promoter, radio DJ and writer, editor of avant-garde music in CapitalBop.com, who has interviewed few innovative bass players as William Parker, Trevor Dunn, John Hébert and Shayna Dulberger.
His debut solo album, Works for Upright Bass & Amplifier, is a 48-minutes piece, using written & original improvised structures, that Stewart has been performing live at art exhibitions throughout 2017. Stewart focuses on a drone texture that investigates the tension between his playing of the double bass, most of the time by bowing it or attaching objects to the strings, and the amplification and manipulation of this disciplined human touch to static, electric noise and feedback. Patiently, Stewart introduces new dynamics to the almost dance-like interplay of his fierce and urgent bowing and the quiet and delicate, monotonous feedback hum of the amplifier, enriching and coloring the drone with more and more nuanced sounds and offering a dramatic yet loose narrative. Later, deep into this drone, there are times that Stewart plays more with the feedback layer of the amplifier, makes it more dynamic and even more tangible than his disciplined bowing and strumming of the bass strings.
Antonio Bertoni - Terre occidentali (loup editions, 2018) ***
The Italian Anthony Bertoni is a double bass player-cellist-luthier who likes to extend the sonic range of his old, new and his own invented instruments - among them recycled guitars, double string moth bow, amplified table, tea-set instruments and motorized musical box - with found objects and electronics. Terre occidentali is Bertoni attempt to build a nonlinear electro-acoustic system where simple elements of sound would generate unpredictable sonic events.
The basic sound source of Terre occidentali are sine waves of the modular synthesizer. These sounds were transcribed to the frequencies of the cello and Beroni transferred them through surface inducers - devices that convert the electric energy to acoustic one, attached to the prepared cello. The cello strings were tuned to lower frequencies than the usual (C 64 Hz, G 96 Hz, C 128 Hz, G 192 Hz) in order to maximize the resonant effect of each string. Then, the cello itself acted as a filter, “envelope generator” and resonant body, allowing Beroni to shape these manipulated electronic sounds with microtonal shifts and percussive patterns close to African rhythms. Bertoni managed to create a unique, otherworldly and ethereal sonic experience, where delicate and nuanced, acoustic and electric sounds blend together and become a fluid entity with its own independent, capricious rationale.