On SQID (MIKROTON CD 40 41) by SQID we’ve got two discs of material by a foursome of topnotch international improvisers, namely Burkhard Stangl, Mario de Vega, Angélica Castelló and Attila Faravelli. They got together over two days in August 2014 and did it in the open air, on the Austrian-Hungarian border. What we hear is effectively is “field recordings and interventions”, which means the sounds of birdsong and traffic are just as much a part of the work as the musical moments, created by percussion, guitars, electronics, and other instruments. The sites for doing this – including a cemetery, a truck park, the attic of a farmhouse – were chosen quite carefully and deliberately while the group were performing a residency at the Kleylehof festival (which takes place in Austria every year, I think). They seemed to be in search of neglected or forgotten places. Ambient sound was a big part of the plan, and the nearby wind turbines have a role to play in supplying interesting background drone as much as the distant wood pigeons and the passing trucks.
As for the instruments, they worked with a range of portable and battery-operated devices, acoustic instruments, devices for generating sine waves, and even the bounty of Mother Nature – sticks, stones, grass, all coming into play held in the hand and clapped together. All of this amounts, I suppose, to an attempt to integrate sound and music performance directly into a specific environment. It’s something of a twist on the now-common approach we find, particularly with solo artistes, of blending field recordings with electronic sound and other elements together in the laptop. Usually this is done in the comfort of the home studio. In the case of SQID, they’re doing it in real time, in a real place. It reminds me of the French impressionist painters (Monet, Pissarro, Renoir) who were advocates of getting oneself out of the stuffy old studio to paint, and carrying your easel and brushes out into the countryside to face the elements head-on. Doing it En Plain Air was their hands-on riposte to the stilted formalities of the academy.
Speaking of visual images, the SQID team were joined for this project by the Mexican visual artist Gudinni Cortina, who took photographs of the areas they played in; his pictures are matched up one-to-one to the tracks in the enclosed colour booklet. Matter of fact the track titles are default save-names usually given to digital photos by operating systems, such as ‘IMG_7697’. All this activity amounts to a well-integrated concept, one whose richness, depth and colour is kept secret by Kurt Liedwart’s all-white cover design. All good stuff; I’d have liked a bit more interaction between the musicians, but now I think of it, that’s not really what this project is about. They interact with the place, as well as with each other, and each musical utterance tends to be quiet and respectful to the specific circumstances in which they find themselves. From 30 July 2015.