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Saturday, October 7, 2023

The Pitch & Julia Reidy – Neutral Star (Miasmah - 2023)

By Guido Montegrandi

“The idea . . . that one can understand the ratios of musical consonances without experiencing them with the senses is wrong. Nor can one know the theory of music without being versed in its practice.” (Giovanni Battista Benedetti-mathematician 1563)

… setting aside all the theoretical explanations (but if you like them: David B. Doty), this is what Just intonation is about: experiencing consonances and different ways to combine sounds and pitches that quite diverge from the mean-tone temperament combinations that represents the standard of western music.

Even though the discussions about the use of just intonation date back to the renaissance theorists, all in all just intonation is but a tool and, in more recent years, this tool has spread out from the inner circle of academic geeks to go as far as the Horse Lords (which are roughly classified as an experimental rock band) to add a new sensation to consolidate music practices. The evolution of Berlin lowercase improv or echtzeit music scene has offered fertile ground for the diffusion of such a practice and here is where we finally come to “The Pitch” and the record that is the object of this review.

To make a 14 years tale short, (but for those of you who are interested in going deep in the history of The Pitch, the 475 September issue of The Wire offers an exhaustive overview) the ensemble has started exploring just intonation since 2019 and this work is the most recent chapter.

Neutral Star is the result of the collaboration between The Pitch (Boris Baltschun, organ, Koen Nutters, upright bass, Morten Joh, vibraphone, percussions Morten Joh, Michael Thieke, clarinet) & Julia Reidy (adjustable fret guitar) and comes after various exchanges they have had starting from the 2019 concerts of The Pitch to celebrate their ten years and the record that Joh and Reidy released in 2022.

The first of the two pieces is a transformation of Joh and Reidy piece endless ≠ limitless included in Tape Shadow and the result is paradigmatic of the music in this album: a collective, unified process that moves around some shared reference points and slowly unfolds producing a sound that is all focused on making music together. Drones and sparse arpeggios go through a tonal sliding also favoured by the use of unstable cassettes to process and delay the sound. And this is the peculiar way The Pitch approaches just intonation adjusting the tones to play together.

The second piece Neutral Star in marked by a constant double bass punctuation that builds up the foundation for the various shifting layers produced by the other musicians and by the electronics.

The whole album “was recorded in one take (by Rabih Beaini in his Morphine Raum studio/venue) in front of a live audience and without overdubs” (from the album notes) and this again is consistent with the idea of music as collective process related to space and time/here and now.

In conclusion I have to say that I like what I have heard and hope you like it too… it certainly needs some dedication, but if you succeed in finding the here and now for this music, you will get a rewarding experience. Repeated listening is recommended.

You can listen, download or buy it on Bandcamp