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Sunday, February 6, 2022

Granular Bastards - Tacit Ground (Discordian Records, 2021) ****

By Ron Coulter

Granular Bastards is Valeria Miracapillo (laptop) and Albert Cirera (saxophones).

Tacit Ground was recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 23, 2020 and released April 5, 2021 on Discordian Records, a Barcelona, Spain based label that offers a large catalog of interesting releases from Barcelona-based artists.

Tacit Ground comes in at 33’27” with its four tracks. The title refers to the fact the album is freely improvised without planning or discussion. The album notes describe the music as follows: “Raw, naked voices from the instrument’s skin. The saxophone activates vibrant objects in its body, while granular machines sample and output grains with the same rough mechanics. Dull transients, resonant metal cans, asynchronous periods and chaotic densities, nothing will smooth out the frictions of thought in its attempt to coherence.” Agreed, this is raw, dirty, gritty, complex sound; it is textural and timbre-driven free improvisation, even in moments of subtlety or rhythmic activity as in track 2 where the rhythmic activity serves more to jaggedly carve out the texture than to establish periodicity. Even in a simple long-tone from the saxophone there is a tension and development of the timbre and pitch generated from it and the laptop (see track one); simple sounds, which are not so simple upon close listening.

This album is one of many that combines a performer on an acoustic instrument and one on electronics, where the acoustic instrument creates the musical content and the electronics use those sounds to be processed/manipulated in order to create their musical content. In many of these contexts the acoustic sounds are often subverted by the electronic sounds, with the resultant sounding like a single instrument or performer. Here, however, the acoustic and electronic are presented side by side as equal voices, clearly distinguishable and still well blended. Granted, the saxophonist’s use of extended techniques, and added objects to the instrument (preparations) generate exotic timbres that at times seem almost electronic in origin. Cirera’s solo performances, on record and youtube, are well worth checking out too; from these you can often see a style of improvising that lends itself well to this duo with Miracapillo and her particular use of electronics.

The duo has an excellent balance in their improvisations, an empathetic performance dynamic that generates very sensitive development of timbre, texture, and pitch. In addition to Cirera’s excellent contributions mentioned earlier, Miracapillo demonstrates adept control with the laptop and the ability to interact with the responsiveness of an acoustic instrument.

Tacit Ground is an excellent album that demands close, attentive listening to appreciate its complexity. The listener will be rewarded for their efforts, especially on repeated listenings that will reveal new depths to the music every time.