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Friday, January 20, 2023

Abdul Moimême - Livro das Grutas (Creative Sources, 2022)

So, you know the old joke, "when is a guitar not a guitar?" No? Ok, that is likely because it doesn't exist, besides, the guitar is always a guitar, even when it is being played in utterly unexpected ways. Like, for example, the double guitars of Lisbon's Abdul Moimême, which are laid flat on tables and played with various tools, rather than by being strummed or plucked. Seen live, it is as visually compelling as well as interesting to hear - a choreography of cause and effect. 

Moimême's approach is one steeped in curiosity, eschewing a virtuosic or melodic approach, it is instead more spatial and visceral. On Livro das Grutas, Moimeme shares this space with Mariana Carvalho, whose prepared piano adds an complimentary set of textures and tones, and flautist Wilfrido Terrazas, who effortlessly switches from melodic ideas to extended techniques. While Carvalho and Moimême can be heard plucking at the strings inside the piano and extracting new tones from the guitars, it falls to Terrazas to connect these unexpected sounds.

The album starts kinetically with 'Descenso,' Terrazas is most in focus, playing a melody on the flute that somehow seems to fold back upon itself. Sounds erupt around him, and most discernible is the prepared piano, whose vibrations are familiar. Less familiar are the sounds attributable to Moimême - these are likely the percussive droplets, or the single string agitations and electric vibrations that open up the next track 'Reconhecimento.' In addition to the quivering note that reoccurs at irregular intervals, Terrazas can be heard shaping the air around it with his breath and sometimes high-pitched overtones. Over the span of twenty minutes, there is not a lot of movement in a traditional sense, but there is the aforementioned choreography of sounds, indirect cause and effects, suggestions that result in subtle changes of direction.

A contrast is 'Ritual,' the third track, which finds the trio following a much darker path. A metallic scrape instantly sets a threatening tone, and the vast aural space is given depth by the reverberations of the piano's lower registers and the crackling whistle. The buzzing may be attributable to the guitar, but what is most striking is how these instruments, approached from unique perspectives, can create a such a cohesive, other-worldly, impression. A jittery plink from Moimême triggers a skittish plonk from Carvalho, while being stitched together by Terrazas - and vice versus.

So, a guitar is still a guitar, even when it's lying flat on a table and its tones are shaped and sculpted between the excited strings and connected amplifiers; and the tones that Moimême makes suggest, react, and go off in their own directions, along with the encouragement and counter-arguments posed by his collaborators on Livro das Grutas.