We Talk to the Trees

From Vasco Trilla, Acoustic Masks (577 RECORDS 5901) is a solo album by this experimental Spanish percussionist. On it, he plays a number of unusual percussion devices, including an aquaspring, overtone triangles, pendulums, tubes, flat bells, clock chimes, besides more conventional devices such as the floor tom or the small gongs. Each track tends to feature just one or two of these instruments, ensuring we concentrate on the individual voicings he produces; this is all part of his conceptual plan, since he sees music as offering the possibility of an “unknown language”, and in each case may be so unfamiliar to us that we see it as a mask – hence the title. We don’t know what changes our protagonist is going through, what emotional state the mask may conceal; our only choice is to listen, and after a time the mask may change into a human face. Vasco Trilla tends to play rather slowly and deliberately, allowing us to hear his percussive inventions in a manner which he calls “sculpting in time”. To put it another way, he’s no Chris Cutler with a battery of percussive objects being rattled every which way. We admire the care and precision with which he works, and the gentle way his rather odd sounds gradually grow more user-friendly as the album progresses. Beyond that, there’s not much more to engage the listener; he’s not an especially innovative improviser, and the album feels processy, like a series of demonstration tracks for each device. (19/01/2022)

Redwoods Interpretive (OSCARSON osc 35) is a quite nice set of noises from an ad-hoc trio, from a time in 2019 when Argentinean sound artist Anla Courtis went to the Bay Area. He was only there for two days but found time to do two live concerts, improvise on a radio broadcast, and make these studio recordings with Thomas Dimuzio and Jon Leidecker. Dimuzio is a noise genius of long standing, and though his recent music might not be as forceful as his 1980s exploits with Recommended Records or Gen Ken’s label, it’s still very dense and rich, hence the extremely layered and thick sound of these Redwoods sessions. Courtis is adding guitar when he can, though often appears to be swamped with digital goo. Leidecker has in the past wreaked mischief and mayhem under his Wobbly guise, often cutting up spoken-word recordings and pop records in subversive manner, but here I suppose his skills for “transformative” practice came in very handy. Between them, we could say the Americans fashion a very modernistic and colourful update on the European electro-acoustic genre, rethinking parts of it as pop-art billboards, or roadside museums housing stuffed curios and wax effigies. In that context, I’d cast Courtis as a kind of Manuel Göttsching character, using the guitar as outer-space explorer for cosmic purposes on top of these abstracted colour-field canvasses. ‘Old Man Of The North’ is effective by dint of extreme length, allowing us to gain weightless state as the weird music takes hold, but ‘Third Eye Moon’ has more interesting sounds and curious dynamics. From 14 September 2021.