Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Slight Deform - Inside (Self Produced, 2022)

By Eyal Hareuveni

Slight Deform is the Barcelona-based experimental duo of guitarist Ferran Fages and pianist Clara Lai. Fages, known from the free improvising bands like Phicus and Tàlveg, is a composer and sound artist with a keen interest in minimalist and austere approaches as well as decontextualizing the relationship between soft acoustic and electronic sounds. Lai, who plays in a trio with Phicus’ double bass player Àlex Reviriego, is a classically trained pianist describing herself as interested in exploring the subtle bridges between improvisation and composition.

Inside is the debut album of Slight Deform, and is released independently by the duo in a very limited edition of only 80 discs, only 50 of them are available on the duo's Bandcamp page and the rest in selected record stores and live performances. Fages uses here two different electric guitars, one of them with changeable tuning versus one with fixed tuning. Lai plays on an apparently divided piano approach, where the use of specific extended and prepared piano techniques differs from another more melodic and harmonic approach within the keyboard. Inside was conceived as two sonic blocks and narrative chapters (Inner and Sided) in order to open different expressive ways where both instrumental treatments complement each other and coexist within a contemporary sound language. The album was recorded at Rosazul studio in Barcelona in November 2020.

You can hear on Inside echoes of Fages’s composition for pianist Lluïsa Espigolé, From Grey To Blue (Inexhaustible Editions, 2020, in which Fages quoted Catalan poet Carles Camps Mundó’s line: “Barely anything: deformities of silence”), and in a way Inside is an extension of that minimalist composition. Inside, like From Grey To Blue, is informed by Morton Feldman's school of minimalism (and the cover art suggests capturing the minimalist essence of Inside), focuses on quiet, reserved playing, and investigates how the resonant timbres of the piano and the electric guitars blend into one dream (and, often, also unsettling nightmares)-like entities and float gently in space. The Inner Pieces slowly develop more tangible, restless kind of sonic deformities of sounds but remain minimalist. The Sided pieces are even more intriguing and dramatic, highlighting the close affinity between Fages and Lai’s inquisitive and idiosyncratic sonic approaches.

All of Fages and Lai’s slight deforms of sounds and silence are captivating with their suggestive, sometimes provocative power. These Inner and Sided pieces radiate a sense of melancholy. They stress the transient, poignant essence of all sounds as if these sounds are metaphors for life itself, with its fascinating but sometimes chaotic and distressing soundtrack.

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