Direct Access

Paolo Valladoid & Gary Rouzer
Directions for Viola and Cello

Sitting on the table in front of me is the familiar and comforting sight of the trademark generic metal tin from Mark Wastell’s reliably excellent Confront imprint. After the hard-to-design-around clamshell cd case that was used for the early Confront editions, it is reassuring to see an instantly recognisable yet highly individual design protocol with its simple provision for information on the rear using black stickers with white text. Elegant and simple. The discs inside are invariably of the black “vinyl” imitation style. I have previously very much enjoyed a release from Gary Rouzer on his amptext imprint: Studies And Observations Of Domestic Shrubbery, which had very little obviously to do with plants, but a lot to do with how many ways Rouzer could think of to make bits of cardboard interacting with his cello sound new and fantastic. This I would recommend you search out without delay. Rouzer also spends his lunch-breaks in worthwhile public pursuit of outdoor improv kicks in his hometown of Washington DC with his chum Jeff Surak as Salarymen. There’s an interesting short film about them by H. Paul Moon. Paolo Valladoid (sometimes spelt “Valladolid” elsewhere) is a new name to me, but a very interesting practitioner as evidenced by the albeit meagre evidence of his musical endeavours on YouTube which I also heartily recommend you check out. Apparently, Rouzer first met Valladoid “…around 2009 for the recording of a large string group put together by double bassist Daniel Barbiero”. The pair have subsequently – or simultaneously – produced two more albums available as free downloads: Reasons For Viola and Cello and Viola Cello Room.

On Directions for Viola and Cello, the action takes place in a tunnel in a park in Alexandria, Virginia USA, a location which I assume was chosen as a convenient locale for both musicians, as well as for the variety of environmental sounds within; water, traffic, cyclists using the bike path through the tunnel – a shout is heard on the third track; “Inside Out”. This is clearly a strategy that Rouzer enjoys. In fact, he has taken a similar approach in a different tunnel in Alexandria with accordionist Eva Zöllner since. Given the very public nature of their location documented here, it comes as no surprise that the duo’s peregrinations are augmented here and there by the auditory evidence of cyclists and passers-by using said tunnel to get from A to B. The music is split into six tracks – all with individual titles – on the cd, but apparently “…no further editing, processing or post-production was done other than fade in and fade out”. So far, so puritanical. The material is unsurprisingly dark and ominous due in no small part to the reverberant nature of the players’ chosen environment.

Interestingly, the titles are themed around physical positioning: “Overhead”, “Besides”, “From Within” and so forth. Whether these terms have a direct correlation to what was happening around the musicians or even to the musicians themselves is unclear, but it lends a nice sense of cohesiveness to the package.
Overall, as was the intention, all six tracks work well together if listened to in one sitting, and indeed, at only a 23:25 duration it is brief, but satisfying nonetheless. The final track; “Sidelong”, finishes abruptly – perhaps this is deliberate, or perhaps the batteries and/or tape ran out – it is an effect I think really works; it underlines the unpredictability of working outdoors, I feel, and draws a heavy line under the project.

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