Click here to [close]

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

In Layers - Pliable (FMR, 2020) ****½

Portugal's star free music quartet returns with another incredible session of automatic composition. Recorded in Coimbra in front of a pre-pandemic audience, the music within this disc is mesmerizing and often stellar, which the listener is correct to expect. The six tracks that comprise Pliable are basically... I hate to use the word “delightful” in almost any setting; but I'll be damned if that isn't the only word that seems to fit.

“Supple” opens with a mournful tone played by trumpter Luis Vicente, crying over Marcelo Dos Reis' no-wave guitar chiming. Plodding percussion from Onno Govaert and Kristian Martinsson's prepared piano overlap in coaxing the music forward. Amazing what rain drips on empty paint cans can do. Bowed guitar and well placed notes by Martinsson bring an air of meditation to the proceedings directly underneath Vicente's longing howls. The search intensifies but the question of “What is Luis searching for so longingly?” remains unanswered.

A little over a minute into “Malleable,” full group improvisation gives way to Dos Reis' full chordal slabs across the guitar neck, atonal chunks of staccato attack. Govaert and Vicente join in, quickly creating a three-way spar of imperial stomp. This is followed by a few solos from Martinsson's prepared piano, Vicente's balloon squeaks, and Dos Reis' guitar at the beginning of “The Whippy”. It becomes hectic as the drums enter, with Dos Reis approximating Morse code. This quickly subsides as Vicente plays a plaintive melody in some sort of plea. A desperation builds underneath the other players. Dos Reis grumbles like Sonny Sharrock about to explode behind the glissandi speech patterns of Martinsson's piano.

Contemplative water bubble trumpet and guitar slow dance with cymbal and piano ice at the beginning of “Elastic.” This is the sound just under the ice, in that little space between the water and the ice on top of the lake. Subtle feedback tones and the piano's light dancing form a background for the drums as “Ductile” begins taking shape. An intense rumbling builds as storm clouds roll in, hitting strongly when piano and trumpet ignite. Dos Reis brews behind Govaert's drum kit until distorted runs rip out of his amp to end the piece sharply. The title track ends the ride with prepared guitar scribbles, lightly tapped drums and a general tentative feel of bringing you back into a scritch-scratch headspace that will keep you returning again and again.