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Thursday, August 10, 2023

Philippe Lauzier & Carlo Costa - Interspace (Inexhaustible Editions/Tour de Bras, 2023) & Carlo Costa & John McCowen - Pianissimo Etc (Tripticks Tapes, 2023)

Philippe Lauzier & Carlo Costa - Interspace (Inexhaustible Editions/Tour De Bras, 2023)

By Stef Gijssels

Italian drummer and New York resident Carlo Costa's music has been described on our blog as "quiet and intense", and as time progresses, both the quietness and the intensity seem to increase. In Canadian bass clarinetist Philippe Lauzier, he found a perfect partner for this musical vision. Lauzier's playing is sober and austere: single notes are sustained before they evaporate in thin air, or are contrasted with one single deeper tone. Costa uses a variety of undefined percussion and objects to accentuate, to colour and to interact. Like zen art, the empty space around the music plays a critical role, more as a foundation than as a backdrop. 

The first four tracks form one long suite, "Sincronia Vaga", on which each player had received a number of "short motives, single notes and noise cells" to use within a given time frame. Over the years, Costa has moved away from traditional notation, using a variety of graphic scores, symbols, written directions and cue methods to merge and juxtapose composed elements with improvisation. This music was created during the Covid-19 pandemic, recorded separately, and integrated afterwards with some minor edits. The advantage of the moments of silence is that it facilitates the integration of sound bits more easily, even if there are some surprises once in a while. It sounds amazingly coherent in any case. 

The last track, "Soft Routine", was penned by Lauzier, and is a little over fifteen minutes long. The composition is built around "two harmonic sequences of different lengths that dephase in counterpoint for a while before returning to the starting point". Lauzier's sound on bass clarinet is stretched and sustained by the use of synthesiser, offering shifting multiphonic mesmerising tones, against which resonating bells, rocks, woodblocks and drum head rubbing are set against. The result is - again - a zen-like atmosphere of moving calm, of sonic purity, of balanced clarity. 

This is no longer jazz, of course, but that does not matter. It requires listeners with open ears and who appreciate the value of sparsity. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Carlo Costa & John McCowen - Pianissimo Etc (Tripticks Tapes, 2023)

On "Pianissimo Etc", Carlo Costa forms a duo with John McCowen on contrabass clarinet. In three tracks totalling a little more than 35 minutes, we are treated to a totally different kind of music than with Lauzier. The music is denser, more nervous, more ominous too, with subdued tones trying to move forward without being able to. The instruments create a collective noise, vibrating, oscillating, full of multiphonics, resulting in tense and unnerving music. Costa's percussion has become the source of long, stretched tones, rather than the crystal-clear bell tones on 'Interspace', and many additional sounds are hard to identify or relate to a particular instrument. It's only on the last track that McCowen really uses the full depth of his contrabass clarinet, creating an atmosphere that sounds even darker and more despondent. 

The wonder of music is that one musician can have different, yet equally rewarding, musical voices or even visions. Whereas "Interspace" uses minimalism to create an environment of clarity, calm and peace, "Pianissimo Etc" uses almost the same instruments, also with minimal variations to create an environment of darkness, nervousness and pending doom. 

Both approaches are valuable, and I can only recommend listeners to give both a try. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp