By William Rossi
Sometimes it's nice to have nothing to hold on to.
When you think about it, even the most adventurous free jazz and free
improvisation often use the same basic language as more "accessible" music,
enough vocabulary for the uninitiated to be able to at least make out a
couple of words and maybe piece its meaning together. There's nothing bad
about this of course and it's important for a musician to be aware and
respectful of each genre's tradition and rules, if only to better break
them, but as this release's title suggests (in Greek mythology Maiandros
was a god and patron of the river by the same name) you need to surrender
to the flow and allow this album to carry you into unknown and
Of the three musicians on this release the only one I knew what to expect
from was Francisco Meirino, fierce experimentalist and very important voice
in the noise/improv scene with countless collaborations under his belt that
I won't bore you with by listing but I do strongly recommend you check out
the rest of his discography if you like this album. Chessex and Noetinger
both bring a lot to the table, namely magnetic tape, saxophone and
amplifiers, even though the trio is in such lockstep that they sound like a
single, complete entity.
The first piece Cocyte & Phlégéthon (two of the rivers encircling
Hades) is a true work of art and a stunning musical achievement: you are
greeted by samples, field recordings and electronics that slowly build into
a dizzying and seasick crescendo. The thing that first struck me was the
mixing and the great use of the stereo field that really helps immerse you
into the music. The other thing that impressed me tremendously is how
expertly the samples get manipulated, with heavy use of EQ-ing, time
stretching and other wizardry I can't even describe: you might hear
something that you could swear is a saxophone only for it to sound like a
swarm of flies a second later, voices that transform into drones, samples
that almost sound like chords.
After about 5 or 6 minutes of listening I realized how lost I'd gotten into
this alien soundscape. There was no structure, no rhythm, no conventional
instrument to anchor me and I'd just drifted with the flow, trying to keep
track of the sounds and wondering if I was really hearing a sax or if it
was just a sample processed with absolute precision; the track keeps you on
your toes and forces you to constantly second-guess yourself.
A quick look at the lineup will clear up any doubt one might have about the
instrumentation but not having read it before and having no prior knowledge
made for a better experience, like hearing a completely new language for
the first time. It's truly incredible how almost indescribable this first
piece is. It defies expectations and will take you out of your comfort
zone, because there's no comfort to be found here.
The second track Tunnel is a little more controversial in my mind. In
something that sounds a lot like Sunn O))) meets Merzbow the track revolves
around a heavily distorted guitar that acts as the bedrock for the samples,
field recordings and synth to thrive and build. After such an abstract fist
track I can see why the trio chose to go for a (slightly) more conventional
sound palette and structure for this one but it's also a shame that the
second half of the album abandons the completely alien feeling that
accompanied the listener up to this point. There are good arguments for
both points of view and no answer is the correct one but I'm in the camp of
those who'd wish the album had kept the same evanescence throughout. The
piece is still fantastic and I think a great many people could like it more
than the first one and, ultimately, it's Chessex, Meirino and Noetinger who
have the last laugh: after checking the credits I can confirm that even
though I was 100% sure about it there's no guitar to be found throughout
the album. Even when I was sure I'd managed to peer into the trio's music
they pulled the rug out from under me yet again.
A fantastic offering from this trio and a great exercise in learning how to
let go of preconceived notions and expectations and just swim through ups
and downs, moments of abstract quiet and ear-shattering explosions, two
very different yet complementary sides. I'm so glad I gave this album a
listen and it's been on rotation since, something about its elusiveness
keeps me coming back to it over and over.
Released on vinyl and digital by Cave12.
I enjoyed this, thanks. But my post is more general.
Since reviews have been stripped of stars, they seem to have drawn far fewer comments. (Perhaps the page moderators can confirm?)
I know there were good reasons to try this less judgemental approach, but it seems to have led to less engagement. Which I doubt is what was intended.
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