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Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Susana Santos Silva - an update

By Stef Gijssels

In the past few days, we've had several reviews of new Susana Santos Silva albums. 

And if we add last year's reviews, her output is substantial: with Child of Illusion on Khimaria, with Biliana Voutchkova on "Bagra", with Mats Gustafsson's NU Ensemble on "Heal" , with Kaja Draksler on "Grow", with Fred Frith on "Laying Demons To Rest", and with her solo "All The Birds And A Telephone Ringing". 

Just to complete the list for the fans, here are some more albums in different forms and formats. 

Santos Silva, Nebbia, Alonso, Bergman Quartet - Ritual Para Acercarse (Ramble Records, 2022)

This quartet was recorded live at at Fylkingen, Stockholm, Sweden, 2021, and consists of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Camila Nebbia on tenor saxophone, Hara Alonso on piano, and Elsa Bergman on double bass, another all-female band like Hearth in which Santos Silva also performed. Camila Nebbia is from Buenos Aires, Argentina; Hara Alonso is from Spain, and Elsa Bergman from Sweden. The album consists of two lengthy pieces, clocking around 20 minutes, with a short one in the middle. 

I have mixed feelings about the result. Despite the qualities of the musicians, they seem to striving to connect somehow, yet on the first piece, especially the trumpet and the sax appear to be playing on different levels, but that slightly changes with the second piece, and disappears in the third track. I guess because they move away into more free improv territory, and relinquish some of the more jazz-oriented moments in the first piece. There is lots to enjoy on this album, and I can only hope the band continues to perform. 

Apart from the digital version, there's also a limited edition of 200 copies on traditional black vinyl.

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Susana Santos Silva & Alexandra Nilsson - Radio Two (Superpang, 2022)

On "Radio Two", the Portuguese artist is in the company of Swedish electronics musician Alexandra Nilsson. Like on the collaboration with Biliana Voutchkova, the music is fragile, stretched and built around one central tone, with slight variations in pitch and timbre creating a sense of movement and development. The originally intended sound of the trumpet is basically absent (with the exception on some parts of "Messier 86"), and it may have become meaningless in this context, but the actual physical activity of applying pressure to air or an instrument is still present. It might be telling that near the end, the trumpet's voice is gradually restored. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Susana Santos Silva - From The Ground Birds Are Born (Superpang, 2021)

"From The Ground Birds Are Born" consists of one long track, more than 18 minutes long. It is played on organ - I guess but you never know these days - and electronics, gradually multilayered and expanding with snippets repeating themselves and as the sound becomes denser, its individual components disappear into a massive wall in which patterns become identifiable - like in Philip Glass composition - then the tone and atmosphere shift into different parts without really altering, and develop into kaleidoscopic images. The overall effect is grand, majestic and bewildering. It is far removed from many of her other recent output. Consider it a trial into a different direction, but it works too. 

The accompanying poetry to contemplate: 

"from the ground birds are born. 
time to let them go.
or not. 
are birds free when they are born from the ground? 
can they become freedom? "

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

SSS-Q + Carlos Guedes - Becoming Space (Self-Released, 2021)

"Becoming Space" is Susana Santos Silva with Jorge Queijo on percussion, and here with Carlos Guedes on live electronics. This is the second album by the trio after the self-titled "SSS-Q + Carlos Guedes" from 2017, and the third by SSS-Q, with "Songs From My Backyard" (2013) being the first. 

The single track may not have reached the 2017 album, but it is the result of the same recording session at NYU Abu Dhabi music studios in January 2017. It starts meditatively, with flute, small percussion and undetermined sounds, almost zen-like, with subdued carefully positioned sounds in an otherwise white landscape. Gradually the sound becomes denser, the atmosphere a little more ominous, and wonderful when the trumpet gets its voice somewhere halfway. 

Like all her efforts, there is some magic to it, and regardless of the style, her musical qualities manage to create something meaningful and special. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Susana Santos Silva - Underwater Traveller (Self-Released, 2021)

The inquisitive nature of the trumpeter are easiest to notice in her personal solo recordings. Without the obligation to meet the expectations of other musicians, she goes well beyond any stylistic border. The piece is only five minutes long, but that's the advantage of digital publishing: you don't a full album to release your achievements. Despite their simple appearance, there has been significant work in the studio to develop the layers of sound, the effects, the movement and the intensity. 

Like on some of the other albums, the questions she invites us to ask are: "How can we breathe under pressured by so much light?

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Susana Santos Silva - Unearth Reality (Self-Released, 2022)

"Unearth Reality" is one of Susana Santos Silva's personal experiments with sound and timbre, very much in the same sequence as "Underwater Traveller". On the 7-minute soundscape, the listener is invited to a long stretched tone full with distorted trumpet, field recordings and processing. The dense layer shifts and changes without losing its initial longitudinal character. The music is more ambient and noise than jazz, but who cares about genres when exploring.

The questions we are invited to ask with the music are : "What is reality? Are we real? Is the world real? How do we perceive reality? How much reality can we bare? How deep can it be? How many layers does it hold? Can we unearth it? Should we?

Not sure about the answers, though. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Qonicho ah! – Qonicho ah! (Kaczynski Editions, 2022)

"Conicho Ah" is the French duo of Morgane Carnet on sax, and Blanche LaFuente on drums. The fully improvised pieces are aptly called "HiHi!", "Ho!", "Eh!" and "Hu!". Susana Santos Silva joins on trumpet for the last fourteen minute long track. 

The interaction between the two French musicians on the first three tracks is by itself worth checking the album out, and Santos Silva's trumpet makes it even better, and actually it's great that she joins to add some more variation and quality to the overall sound. 

The album is available in 30 handmade envelopes containing a sliding puzzle and a poster. 

There's also a fun video on Youtube of the French duo. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Here's To Us - Kaukasus (Hoob Records, 2022)

"Here's To Us" is a Swedish ensemble consisting of Josef Kallerdahl on double bass, Lisen Rylander Löve on tenor sax, Nils Berg on bass clarinet and flute, and Susana Santos Silva on trumpet. This is the band's sophomore album, after "Animals, Wild And Tame". 

The music is modern chamber jazz, with close polyphonic harmonies, tight arrangements and a gentle folkish atmosphere. The sound is welcoming, warm and charming.

It's interesting to hear Susana Santos Silva in a different, more mainstream and controlled context. If you're in for something less adventurous, this might be of interest. 

Fred Frith Trio - Road (Intakt, 2021)

On "Road", the first CD is a trio of Fred Frith on electric guitar and voice, Jason Hoopes on electric bass and Jordan Glenn on drums. They explores the sonic possibilities of the trio format, considering the unusual and exploratory guitar of Frith. The sound can be harsh, distorted and electronically altered, with lots of chords played in dyads or triads, rarely with real soloing. 

What concerns us here is primarily the second CD, which brings on two guests, Susana Santos Silva on tracks 8 and 11, and Danish saxophonist Lotte Anker on tracks 9 and 10. The trio with trumpet were recorded at the Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, on October 4, 2019, and the performance with Anker at the Altes Kino, Ebersberg, Germany, on October 31, 2019.

I can only say that the second CD is astonishing. The trio is in great shape, and the interaction with both the trumpet and the sax are exceptional. Both female artists lift Frith's musical vision - intense, raw, abrasive - to an even higher level, adding depth and perspective, including both emotional and exploratory power. They communicate with the same language, adapting nicely to Frith's idiosyncratic style, adding their own signature as well. It is great when strong musical characters and instrumental virtuosi manage to co-create the same language. 

You could only with more of this had been recorded - and maybe it is - and released. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp


Anonymous said...

According to Bandcamp's listing, Silva is on tracks 8 and 11.

Stef said...

Thanks Anonymous for your close reading. My mistake and I rectified in the text.

Monochromios said...

Thank you Stef and thank you to all the other writers that wrote about SSS. She's one of the most beatuful realities of contemporary jazz. Thank you for the detailed view of all her last works.