Click here to [close]

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Lea Bertucci – Resonant Field (NNA, 2019) ****

By Nick Ostrum

Lea Bertucci, the young sound-sculptor and saxophonist based in New York, has seen her popularity explode over the years, at least as much as one could expect for someone working on the droning fringes where experimental jazz and soundscapes meet. Her recent output has been favorably regarded both on FJB (brief reviews here and here) and beyond it. This very album, in fact, has recently listed as one of the top 10 jazz albums of 2019 by the New York Times. And, for good reason.

Resonant Field is a partially solo effort (though with some help from Robbie Lee, James Ilgenfritz, and the Tigue percussion collective) recorded in an abandoned grain elevator in Silo City, Buffalo during the summer of 2017. The building is as much an instrument as it is a locale. Even more than other site-specific projects such as that capture in The Cave (Larry Ochs and Gerald Cleaver) or even a lot of Deep Listening work, this album is not simply about tracking an echo, or experiment with timbres in unique spaces. Instead, this album is about projecting sounds, and layering tone upon resonance in entrancing sonic loops. It is also so much more than that.

It is an exploration of polyphony and the reflexivity of sound and space. It plays with ideas of note creation and deterioration that conceptually resemble Nate Wooley’s Syllables project but focus less on the process of generating a note than on the ways those notes are warped, yet sustained as they circulate and interact with the silo. In the process, she creates not only oddly synthetic sounding ambiance (the mixing process certainly adds to this), but also a natural, almost primordial feeling of space and solitude that stretches time in the same way Bertucci piles and manipulates microtones. She plays the room as much as she plays her sax.

It is this combination of physicality (the silo, the acoustic instrumentation, the echoes and reverberation) and numinous atmospherics that makes it so compelling and perplexing. I am hesitant to read too much socio-religious theory into this, but I cannot shake the idea that Mircea Eliade’s concept of the eternal return - the repetition of rites and practices that allows one to step back into mythic-historical time, however briefly – provides an entrepot to unlocking this album. Resonant Field quite consciously involves the return to a time and place that had been lost to progress and, in its imagined state, is already becoming a quasi-mythic memory. It involves ritualized performance that bends perceptions of time and transports the listener to this reimagined and reinvented space, the contours of which are mapped and determined by a performance meant to realize the hitherto forgotten – or maybe now simply newly envisioned - potentialities of the environment. There is an element of communion with an imagined past, here. The silo never could have sounded like this when it was active. It never could have sounded like this had it not been left to decay. It never could have sounded like this in any other time or in any other interaction. And Resonant Field never could have sounded like this in any other place.

Resonant Field is available on vinyl and as a download: