Primary Envelopment

Wade Matthews :: digital synthesis, field recordings,
amplified objects
Javier Pedreira :: guitar
Ernesto Rodrigues :: viola
Nuno Torres :: alto saxophone

Madrid, 2014
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Wade Matthews at Smiling Cow Studio,
Cover design by Carlos Santos
Produced by Ernesto Rodrigues
Creative Sources 2014


REVIEWS

Matthews on digital synthesis, field recordings and amplified objects, Pedreira on guitar, Rodrigues on viola and Torres on alto saxophone.
A bit dissimilar to much of the above in terms of an increased textural richness, due I think to Matthews electronics, which form a nice, constantly shifting blanket of sound throughout, into which the others weave their threads, Torres a little more vociferous here (but not unduly). This is the type of session that falls, for me, into a category frequently found on Creative Sources: an improv date that’s very competent, no particular problems, but not standing out in any real way, with no (perceivable by me) really interesting ideas in play. It’s fine but, by this point, I understand that this can be achieved and am seeking more. Not to harp unfairly on this particular release, just a general comment. Brian Olewnick (Just Outside)

The manipulation of very high pitches is a distinctive feature of Primary Envelopment, and as with past such albums, including Wade Matthews’s Growing carrots in a concrete floor, some of my family does not appreciate this aspect: They say the tones are painful, etc. I don’t agree, and not only don’t I find the tones to be painful, but the level of control exerted over such high pitches seems therapeutic to me: As opposed to so many high pitches & resonances in my life, which happen as unintentional results (or worse, intentionally noxious results) of other activity, including the electronic speaker distortion I hear so very often at ordinary establishments (and abhor), these pitch regions are used consciously here, serving to ameliorate the numbing effect of the noisy & sonically inconsiderate world. I very much appreciate the insistence — and I’ll call it an insistence — that high pitches can be musical, and not only noise. Indeed, Primary Envelopment takes such technique farther than previous albums featuring high-pitched resonance, such as (the recently discussed) Anomonous & Growing carrots itself, in that the pitch variation seems even more carefully controlled. (E.g. White Sickness also features carefully controlled high pitches, although they are less prominent. At another end of something of a spectrum is Joe Morris’s exploration of Hendrix’s “sound” in Mess Hall, as I discussed here in January.) The high pitches then serve not as extensions of other musical activity, but as a foreground of their own: I’m reminded somewhat of Scelsi’s manipulation of overtones, for instance (and the first part of track #3 evokes Aitsi for me, although perhaps not for the performers). It is this aspect that reconfigures the “background” features of the music, differentiating it from some of Rodrigues’s other, more restrained albums: High pitches directly manipulate how we hear space via overtone & resonance, so that the space itself is changing, even with a consistent background (which we might otherwise associate more with space). Primary Envelopment is also different from the typical Creative Sources release in that, like the previous recorded collaboration between Rodrigues & Matthews, Erosions (2010), it includes liner notes by Matthews: He talks rather expansively about how improvisation is more akin to the act of building than it is to architecture, that it involves physically diving in & starting to build with an energy that differs from planning. (He also talks a bit about how their complicated musical tools are only aggregates of elements, not so very different from stone age tools, a point I’ve noted in this space too.) Regarding the other performers, although I apparently decided not to discuss it in this space, I recognize Torres from Pinkdraft, an earlier “landscape” album on Creative Sources that also features Travassos, the designer for Clean Feed, as a musician. (Pinkdraft is not so unlike Pão, on Shhpuma, which I did discuss in January 2013.) Pedreira appeared in this space when I discussed Garnet Skein by Thanos Chrysakis on his Aural Terrains label, also with Wade Matthews, with whom Pedreira appears to work frequently. If Primary Envelopment arises from these four musicians taking a leap & starting to build something, as Matthews suggests, the resulting audible documentation can only be considered a success. But a success at what? I’ve already noted the exploration of high pitches, but this occurs within a context of broad musical activity: All pitch regions are used, including low drones with static — the album begins with a low rumble quickly joined by very high pitches, and met with a variety of attacks from the wind & strings. The result is a rich tapestry of sound that reconfigures both the foreground-background duality and the sense of movement across space. Although I’ve focused on attributes, the music becomes more about relation & connectedness than separate elements, even though motion is rarely sustained for more than a few minutes at a time. I find it engrossing, and even with its novelty, it does yield something of a primal sound, as was apparently the intent. (Is the “primary” of the title anything like what Gian Luigi Diana does with electronics on the “primary” track of Tesla Coils? Perhaps.) The sounds that make up the musical “stuff” of Primary Envelopment are indeed all around us (e.g. the rattling of pots on top of my refrigerator when it runs, or more “natural” sounds of wind & rain), even if they need the attention of musicians such as these to seem musical. Although the symphonic tapestry of quasi-everyday sounds evokes e.g. Jeff Shurdut in The Music of Everything, the result is very personal in its detail and transformative in the many ways sounds are related: Relation itself comes to the foreground. Todd McComb (medieval.org)

[…] Em “Primary Development” esse papel está nas sínteses do computador. É um notável álbum de Wade Matthews, a quem se associam Ernesto Rodrigues, Javier Pedreira e Nuno Torres. A estratégia, neste caso, é de contraste e ambivalência: som por camadas (pinceladas) e silêncio, em sucessões de enchimento e esvaziamento. Continua o rótulo “reducionismo” a fazer sentido? Talvez, mas aplica-se a realizações como esta, com igual propriedade, o termo “acrescentacionismo”. Se o “chão” da música, desde Cage, é o silêncio, ou a impossibilidade deste, tudo o que se realize sobre a sua matriz é adição. Não por contrariedade, mas por inerência: se silêncio é som, qualquer som, qualquer organização de sons, vulgo música, traz consigo essa origem silenciosa. Rui Eduardo Paes (Jazz.pt)

En sous-sol il y a avait l’atelier de mon grand-père. En semi sous-sol, pour être exact. De petites ouvertures donnaient sur l’extérieur où je guettais souvent les chevilles d’une inconnue qui n’était pas toi. Dans cette odeur d’acier et de graisse que m’ont ramenée les quatre outils (un par musicien, j’imagine : Wade Matthews, Javier Pedreira, Ernesto Rodrigues et Nuno Torres) dessinés sur la couverture de Primary Envelopment.
J’essaye de me figurer à quoi peut ressembler l’atelier aujourd’hui. Je ferme les yeux. Je laisse une guitare électrique, un saxophone alto, un violon et des objets amplifiés le faire sonner. Les établis tournent à plein régime. Les hommes y percent, y liment, y vissent, y frisent… Tout est bon pour modifier leurs instruments et le son de leurs instruments bien entendu. Ils font aussi parfois des pauses pour faire le point sur l’avancée de leur travail. A voix basse.
Par les petites fenêtres, le vent s’engouffre, soulève un peu de poussière de bois, de métal et de cordes, qui s’envole en tourbillon. C’est la fin de l’improvisation enregistrée il y a un an maintenant à Madrid. C’est-à-dire à quelques kilomètres de l’atelier de l’ancêtre. Je ne sais pas à quoi il peut ressembler aujourd’hui. Mais je sais maintenant qu’il sonne encore. Héctor Cabrero (Le Son du Grisli)

Similarly to the introduction of “Erosions”, another collaborative release for Creative Sources we talked about some years ago, which involved Ernesto Rodriguies and Neil Davidson, Wade Matthews wisely introduces “Primary Envelopment”, a recording where field recordings, amplified objects and digital synthesis by Matther himself converged with Nuno Torres’ alto saxophone, Ernesto Rodrigues’ viola and Javier Pedreira’s guitar, by means of an interesting concptualization where improvisation got compared to building or I’d rather say to construction works, instead of architecture by quoting Robert Smithson’s “A Sedimentation of the Mind”. According to Smithson’s words: “Building takes on a singular wildness as loaders scoop and drag soil all over the place. Excavationas form shapeless mounds of debris, miniature landslides of dust, mud, sand amd gravel”. If listeners bear in mind this matching between construction and improvisation, this seemingly abstract session, where the differences between (musical) instruments and working tools got somehow blurred, could mirror that “devasting kind of primordial grandeur” that Smithson matched to building, even if you – you don’t have to apologize for that! – won’t easily understand who is playing what in many moments of the recording that this fourtet made in april and june 2014 at Smiling Cow Studio in Madrid. A primary envelopment, indeed! Vito Camarretta (Chain DLK)

Advertisements