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David Maranha and Helena Espvall – Sombras Incendiadas

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David Maranha and Helena Espvall - Sombras IncendiadasHelena Espvall (of Espers) and David Maranha of Osso Exótico‘s first joint album finds the duo pushing and prodding at the boundaries of what their amplification of cello, violin and electric organ can achieve in the field of drone music. It hardly needs to be emphasised that as much volume as the reproducing equipment can offer clearly — and the listener(s) can stand — will give the best results for this LP, as Sombras Incendiadas is all about density, and even surrender.

Obvious – and explicit – reference points include John Cale, LaMonte Young and Tony Conrad at their most stretched-out and harmonically-vibrant. Maranha and Espvall let the distorted sound of their instruments flow with a raw intensity which never pretends that there is anything exploding in the shadows other than the bowed strings and electrical signals vibrating at the core of their music.

Obvious variation and instant gratification are also the last thing on the duo’s minds here, as repetitive figures scrawl and scree with fingernail-on-the-blackboard tones sometimes dominating; save for the hardiest of aficionados, this is not music for (most; options can be left open) parties or even casual enjoyment. It takes work, concentration, or perhaps more appropriately a willing suspension of ordinary tonal appreciation and/or a mind-emptying Zen state, to engage (or permit) a mindset which allows for the recognition – the dawning realisation, even – that once fully inside the scrapes, reverberant ripples and occasionally untrammelled vibrato, there is much to be thankful for here, and allow to simply be (or alternately, from some points of view, endure).

But like those Zen paradoxes whose comprehension is so often encouraged with a swift slap upside the head, or koans which make the brain ache with seemingly ungraspable meanings, the four tracks on Sombras Incendiadas never quite let the listener relax. This is not in any sense ambient music, and its drones are not the kind which lull and soothe, but which perk up and stimulate the senses by pricking relentlessly at the skin and nagging ever more scabrously at the recipient’s tolerance for prolonged dissonance.

When the mood does drag, it’s with an anticipatory sense of pregnant expectancy often verging on the apprehensive: how many horripilations are there to come next; when will the (hated, unwanted) silence save the world from this all-pervading noise? But what shall, or even can, ultimately take its place and replace that awful, joyous cacophony? Another track of ecstatic life-affirming agony (how many exactly have already played through?) – or perhaps worse, the ghastly, deathly silence of termination?

-Linus Tossio-

 

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