diatribes – Sistere

diatribes - Sistere, intricate copper metalwork design depicting a face

“Sistere” compiles two pieces of percussion music by the duo of Cyril Bondi and d’incise. Both pieces focus on a narrow range of timbres and pitches: ‘Tabi-Tabi’ uses a variety of different shakers and bells, whereas ‘Utsara-Utsara’ features different drums (floor tom, bass drum, and snares). Each piece consist of almost nothing but the repetition of a constant beat for some twenty minutes or more; at first blush this sounds like some of mappa editions labelmate Sarah Hennies’ more endurance-oriented compositions, but the Swiss pair are less concerned with the minute differences between each beat, as Hennies might be, than with the subtle coming and going of contrasting layers.

It sounds as if every instrument played on ‘Tabi-Tabi’ is performed by shaking or turning in some way, and the jaunty pace and rattling bells have more than a hint of sleigh ride about them — in fact, the piece reminds me of a two-hour Sami sleigh ride that was broadcast on BBC4 a couple of Christmases ago. As anyone who saw that programme will attest, the effect of this repetitive sshh-shhing is soothing and absorbing. At first the more ponderous tempo of ‘Utsara-Utsara’ bored me a little, but closer attention reveals shifts and contrasts of timbre, resonance, and reverberation that are perhaps even more enjoyable than those of its companion piece due to their greater subtlety and room to ring out.

According to the liner notes, both pieces were performed live over an unspecified ‘background recording’, but I’ll be damned if I can hear the recording; I also can’t tell if any looping or overdubs were used, or if the resonances and reverberations have been enhanced through the use of added effects. I suspect not, but it doesn’t really matter. The point of “Sistere” isn’t really to demonstrate technique, but to entrance and beguile with hypnotic rhythms and subtle shifts in timbre. And that’s something the album achieves with ease.

diatribes

mappa editions

Image: “Sistere” cassette cover artwork, design and handwork by Katarína Škamlová, Jakub Juhás and Zoltán Czakó. A download edition is also available.

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