Just when you thought there was nothing left to be done with the ‘sound-silence-sound’ strain of composition that can be heard almost ubiquitously in certain experimental music circles of late, here comes diatribes and Cristián Alvear with another excellent and fresh-sounding example of the genre. The composite sounds framed by silence are as gorgeous and ear-catching as ever, but each member of the trio adds something new and unexpected to the mix. If you think you’ve heard the name of the piece somewhere before, you’re probably thinking of the version on diatribes’ album “A new castle”; this new trio version was recorded in Santiago, Chile during the Swiss duo’s recent South American tour.
You may also be thinking that the delicately plucked acoustic guitar strings heard from Alvear on recordings of compositions such as Radu Malfatti’s ‘shizuka ni furu ame’ and Ryoko Akama’s ‘Hermit’ would complement the various rumbles, hisses, and tones heard on the original version of ‘roshambo’ rather nicely. You may well be right, but Alvear chooses a different path on this occasion, contributing a number of e-bow hums, body knocks, and string scrapes to the proceedings — not a clearly plucked string to be heard. Cyril Bondi is in a much more rhythmic mood this time round, his acoustic objects gently tapping, ticking, brushing, rattling and shaking through the various figures. His partner-in-art d’incise, as well as reprising various electronic tones, also contributes a number of field recordings that vary from clearly recognisable as such to ambiguous in origin. I think this is the first time I’ve heard field recordings used in this sort of composition, and it’s very effective.
Make a sound together, pause; make another sound together, pause; repeat for twenty minutes or so. It sounds like such a simple recipe, but the results are far from dull or unimaginative. Maybe it’s due to the use of field recordings, but to me this version of ‘roshambo’ seems more reminiscent than any other work I’ve heard in this style of a series of snapshots or polaroids in a slideshow, the continuous cycling through from one image to the next. The sounds share photographs’ ambiguous location somewhere between discrete objects and moments in a stream or narrative, repeating a regular form while constantly varying timbre and harmony. Through its variations on a theme or permutations of an idea, “roshambo (trio)” offers a critique of time and duration through an absorbing, open-ended musical experiment, at once sculptural and ephemeral.