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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Sonic Tender - Odd Objects (Robalo Music, 2024)

By João Esteves da Silva

Odd Objects, the debut album of Lisbon-based trio Sonic Tender, is an odd object indeed. I’d say straight away that its music is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. The closest thing to it I can recall is perhaps Formation < Deviation, an album by German-French trio Crane (featuring Matthias Müller, Eve Risser and Christian Marien) released by Relative Pitch Records in 2021, but its overall conception is a vastly different one. Sheer distinctiveness, however, would not have sufficed for it to be a worthy (artistic) object. A certain amount of convincingness is required, too. And, at least broadly speaking, a convincing object it is.

The trio - comprised by Guilherme Aguiar on piano, João Carreiro on guitar and João Valinho on drums - self-describes as being “dedicated to transmute sonic sources into a unified object of sound.” And, indeed, this music is not at all about interaction between different voices, but of a blending of voices (and its respective timbres) into a single (multi-layered) unit. In this respect, and though some of the sonic material employed might remind us of so-called free music, it represents a radical break with it. Besides, just as there is no room for dialogue, there is no room for wandering: each piece is an extremely focused object (usually dense, consisting mostly of vertical gestures, and requiring extraordinary concentration and single-mindedness to be pulled off), with virtually no sense of narrative progression involved. (There lies the main contrast with Formation < Deviation, which comprises two longish journeys of a single but mutating body of sound.) However, despite the lack of such progression within individual pieces, akin to largely static objects (or perhaps objects turning around a fixed point, and nonetheless exhibiting inner goings-on of some sort), they are juxtaposed in such a way so as to form a particular path, thus conveying a certain narrative structure to the album when taken as a whole.

It is far too early to make any kind of definitive judgement on such idiosyncratic music, but I do believe Aguiar, Carreiro and Valinho have struck gold here. I guess there is still room for improvement, both in terms of conception-execution and recording, but an uncharted territory may well have been found(ed).