Click here to [close]

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Child of Illusion (Chris Pitsiokos, Susana Santos Silva, Torbjörn Zetterberg) - Khimaira (Relative Pitch, 2022)

By Nick Metzger

I really enjoyed the eponymous debut album from this trio and so eagerly snatched up this latest release, their sophomore album, from Relative Pitch. Santos Silva and Zetterburg have collaborated extensively and share a refined musical concept which we’ve been lucky enough to hear unfurl over the years. In Pitsiokos they have a kindred spirit, and IMO their most intriguing +1 outside of Hampus Lindwall.

The nature of this kinship is perhaps hinted at in the group moniker, which references a slogan of the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Lojong, an important phrase for practitioners that I won’t sully here with a poor attempt at definition. It works as well if I note that a child’s capacity for finding wonder in the everyday and mundane far surpasses that of most adults. I love the allusions. What is free improvisation if not a forum to share and explore the wonder of sound with like-minded people? Looking (listening) for shapes and forms in the passing clouds. On “Khimaira” the trio explore sounds both subtle and startling across a single, extended track of intuitive play and expansive soundscaping.

The piece begins with long, breathy, metallic lines framed in strokes of guttural vehemence. As Zetterberg settles into chunkier rhythms the horns respond in kind, smoothing their dissonance and shifting to a more active dialogue. Their squeaks and squeals probe the underside of the bassist’s undulating thrum. Sometimes the horns pair together in globules, other times they counter each other’s efforts in spiky sprays of grima. Zetterberg is a patient player, he’s always listening and reacting, providing grit for traction and/or setting up opportunities for the group to transition through the piece.

Around the middle of the track the trio lock into a sustained chorus howl, billowing at first but just as quickly (continuously) evolving into something more turbulent. The pizzicato picks up and the horns race after, Santos Silva’s otherworldly tone and wide vibrato contrasting nicely with the sharp and physical Zorn-isms offered up by Pitsiokos. There’s an abrupt silence and then the discourse builds back slowly, starting with a bedrock of buzzes, reed pops, raspberries, string scapes, etc. before transitioning to a complex - even fiery - interplay over the persistent, thoughtful thump of wood and gut.

In Greek mythology the Khimaira is a divine, fire breathing creature comprised of lion, goat, and serpent forms that terrorized the ancient Lycian countryside. It’s fierce imagery that definitely serves well as a lens with which to view (listen to) this release. That noted, the cover art works to immediately subvert the tendency with a sly wink. Is this not also just as plausible in the unsystematic realm of possibilities for a true child of illusion? A wonderful piece of music altogether, full of playfulness, nuance, and balance.

Listen and download from Bandcamp