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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Two from alto saxophonist Audrey Lauro

lauroshilau - live at Padova (el Negocito, 2021) ***½

By Keith Prosk

Audrey Lauro (alto saxophone, preparations), Pak Yan Lau (toy pianos, synthesizers, electronics), and Yuko Oshima (drums) freely play tense, textural, whirling soundscapes on the setlength live at Padova. It is the overdue followup to the self-titled debut from 2014.

The trio language is tight, sticking close to each other in speed, volume, and timbre. So close sometimes that the ear might confuse fluted cymbals for shrill sax, saxophone bubblings and pops for cavernous synthesizer clicks, synth distortion for shimmering cymbals, so on. Movement is unhurried but constant, progressive but almost circular in the kind of tug and pull similar textures from dissimilar instruments. Volume is quiet - enough to hear a cough - but never silent and, while there are dynamic fluctuations perhaps familiar to the forty-minute free improv set, they are closer to hibernation and the onset of doom than ecstatic groove and climax. Textures come from a blend of traditional play and extended technique, languourous sax lines with air notes and chirpings, sparse tom hits and orchestral bass drum rumblings with parallel play, conventional synth sounds with alien ones and muted percussive piano. But the focus is always on the sound and its interaction with those from others, rather than melody. The tension never really releases, which only contributes to the kind of darker moods that Lauro seems to conjure up with much of her music.

live at Padova is available digitally and on CD.

Audrey Lauro/Giotis Damianidis - Dark Ballads (Mr. Nakayasi, 2021) ***

Lauro and electric guitarist Giotis Damianidis improvise moody, brooding atmospheres on Dark Ballads. Lauro and Damianidis have recorded together on The Ear Cannot Be Filled With Hearing from Giovanni Di Domenico, a fruitful relationship with whom they both frequently work with on other recordings (indeed mixing and mastering this one). Just last year, Damianidis released the propulsive fusion of The Miracle and Lauro contributed powerful, textural, tense pieces to 点字呼吸の領域 [The Region of Braille Respiration. Dark Ballads blends those two approaches for six tracks with a substrate of distorted riffage and saxophone that alternates between conventional and extended techniques to create a grim dialogue over 36 minutes.

The mineral tracks (1, 3, and 5), are textural playgrounds for Lauro. Like overblown, hoarse, high and tinny war horns on “Obsidienne” , or the percussive “Almandin” with pointillistic phrasings and the scratch and pop of saliva in the bore. The ballad tracks (2, 4, 6) are still colorful - containing reedy vibrato, key clicks, and smooches - but more characterized by sultry, noirish, dark jazz lounge musings; it might feel cheap to make this comparison but I couldn’t shake the image of Harry Caul soloing at the end of The Conversation, sitting alone in the apartment he’s ripped apart in a paranoid frenzy. Communication with the guitar is light and spacious, sometimes more obvious with call and response type reactions but more often through textural compliments; hairy distortion to match saliva in the bore, light feedback for overblows, staccato picking with cavernous reverb for key clicks. While spacious, there is never silence, but rather an amplifier hum or lingering pool of reverb. Damianidis sprinkles in effects and techniques like tremolo and palming but most often rips a heavy riff over which Lauro plays. Sometimes, as on “(part 2),” the undulations of the sax and guitar synchronize for a visceral throb. There’s heavier, doomier, harsher fusings of jazz and metal inspirations, and others revel in the kitschy dark lounge of a Lynchian nightmare to greater degrees, but Dark Ballads operates in strange and strangely alluring space between.

Dark Ballads is available digitally and on LP.


MJG said...

Thanks for the informative reviews Keith that prompted me to buy 'Live at Padova' which is proving a great listen.

Keith said...

Thanks for reading and for supporting the music! That trio is pretty special!