By: Will Pinfold
Eriza | website | bandcamp | soundcloud |
Released on July 18, 2016 via Pan Y Rosas Discos
The poet Philip Larkin once, somewhat uncharitably, described Ornette Coleman’s great Free Jazz as a ‘patternless reiterated jumble’, but whereas to modern ears the Coleman double quartet’s sax/trumpet/bass/drums/clarinet lineup sounds quintessentially jazzy, the texture of Argentinian-based improvisational trio Eriza’s piano/bass/cello is far less easily identifiable by genre. The music too, is closer to Larkin’s description, but here, as in its original context, whether it constitutes a criticism is purely subjective. Arde certainly feels patternless, but Eriza’s is (on this album at least) essentially an expressive rather than reflective approach and when it succeeds it does so on an intuitive, primal level.
The three longish (12, 9 and 17 minute) pieces (culled from two live performances, in November 2015 and June this year) are varied in tone, but all share a sometimes frenzied, unmusical (or even anti-musical) unpredictability that makes them hard to assimilate, but also hard to enjoy as music; the appeal is far closer to that of a harsh noise project like Merzbow, although the texture and technique are entirely different. Having said that it’s patternless, a methodolgy of sorts does emerge in the three pieces, each of which begins with an audibly tentative section as the musicians feel their way into the improvisation, and each piece at some point builds to a peak of manic intensity. It’s a remarkably Dionysian, ritualistic experience, especially given the absence of any kind of regular rhythm or tempo, and it’s a testament to the skill of the players, Tatiana Castro Mejía (piano), Amanda Irarrazabal (bass) and Cecilia Quinteros (cello) that they generate so much expressive power without drawing on any traditional musical forms.
The downside of this approach is that the three pieces, though all intermittently powerful are also fairly similar, especially the first two (both from 2015), since the ambience and acoustics are identical on both. ‘November 11, 2015 Part One’ opens with unpromising assorted squeaking and sawing from the stringed instruments and maintains an edgy tension throughout, enhanced by a sinister piano figure that emerges a few minutes into the performance. Although without traditional percussion, there are a plethora of knocking, slapping, scraping and smearing noises that punctuate each performance. At their most powerful, Eriza make a strongly atmospheric, unified if not harmonious noise, but the first track, though interesting throughout (especially in its last, actually quite jazzy passage) never really establishes a mood that lasts beyond its duration.
The second track is taken from the same performance and embodies even more strongly the strengths and weaknesses of Eriza’s approach. Opening with an onslaught of bustling, clattering percussive noise made apparently by battering the stringed instruments (with their bows?) while the piano plinks in exactly the way it would if an untrained person was thumping it, it’s extremely energetic, but initially (on the recording at least) not hugely gripping. The track moves into extreme territory with the introduction of some visceral (and perhaps cathartic) vocals, with two bellowing/shouting/screaming voices which segue into an almost manaical sopranissimo; for the unengaged listener it’s a bit silly, but it does add another texture to the strange and distinctive cacophony. Much better is the tense, slow last passage where the violin, bass and cello scrape ominously against tentatively struck piano chords, creating an airy ambient reverberating quality that yet becomes extremely oppressive before its abrupt ending.
At seventeen minutes, the third piece (dating from June 2016) is the longest, but in its initial phase, the least successful of the three, while also having the best actual sound. For a good seven minutes, it seems to capture the trio as they wheeze and prod around but never quite gel with each other as they do in their more coherent moments. After a brief pause they reconvene with what is possibly the most ominous but also one of the most affecting passages on the album. Grim and at times even beautiful in a stark, bleak kind of way, it exemplifies Eriza’s apparent tendency to actively shrink away from anything that could be perceived as pretty or sentimental. There is a brief section lasting for around a minute, where Cecilia Quinteros’ cello is played with an almost formal ‘cleanness’, but, as if rebelling against this moment of conventionality, she brings it to a close with a vicious scraping noise before the group again joins in a kind of competition to reach the most extreme noise capable in an acoustic instrument; an orgy of scrapes, bangs and jittery wails that reaches a kind of manic peak as the album ends, leaving in its wake a rather blissful silence. Again, the comparison that springs to mind is not avant garde jazz or classical music, but noise, or the noisy ‘chamber doom’ of Mohammad, although Eriza’s work is mostly less dense and oppressive and naturally less ‘composed’.
Arde then, is an extremely dynamic and inspired work, but one to be approached with caution unless untrammelled, unfettered creativity at its least compromising and tuneful is your thing.