More Crepuscular Magic from Carlo Costa
Over the last year or so, drummer Carlo Costa has carved out a niche for himself as a first-rate improviser and bandleader with a penchant for suspenseful, frequently haunting soundscapes. His latest project, titled Natura Morta, is a fascinatingly ghostly four-part improvisation featuring violist Frantz Loriot and bassist Sean Ali. Seldom do any of the instruments serve their usual purposes: other than some ominous, hesitantly rumbling motifs by Costa on a couple of occasions, it’s hard to tell who’s doing what. Loriot hangs around the low midrange while Ali bows high harmonics much of the time, when the two aren’t supplying the occasional, seemingly random series of pizzicato accents, sometimes flitting in and out of the mix, sometimes scurrying furtively. What they’re doing isn’t melodic in any conventional sense – when Ali finally moves up a half-step from the root he’s been hammering, off and on, toward the end of the fourth track, it’s the first and really only time a real tune insinuates itself into the equation. Otherwise, if this is death, it’s an entertaining if disquieting place, something akin to the Chinese proverb about the luck of being born in interesting times.
The opening track, Entropy, is far less entropic than its title suggests: following a series of cues, the trio scurry and rattle against a drone. For awhile, everything is muted: mournful bell-like tones, distant footfalls and white noise, then Loriot introduces an element of scrapy, unvarnished horror. Harmonics oscillate up with a groan as it goes quietly into the night. The second track, Hive, has an unexpected humor, all three musicians rustling singlemindedly as if trying to get a grip on something that keeps slipping away. Drones – the rubbing of a drum head, maybe? – circulate through the mix and establish a circular, hypnotic rhythmic quality which the viola then sends packing, Costa moving from tentative to deliberate as he navigates his way gingerly down into the abyss. Track three, Marrow, is basically a drum solo in a catacomb atmosphere – is that a gamelan gong doing those almost subsonic booms? An echoing polyrhythmic effect disappears amid a series of quickly disintegrating scrapes and swoops, Costa eventually shifting to a matter-of-fact bustle against Loriot’s screeching overtones. The final track, Glimmer, spaces sepulchral single notes – a muted cymbal, a fragment of a bass figure, a hint of sustained viola – within a glacial tempo punctuated mostly by silence: the first minute or so is barely perceptible, it’s so quiet. Only the drums have any resonance, and only for a second at a time, low and booming and fading completely in what seems less than a second. In its own extremely well-conceived, twisted and defiantly perverse way, it’s a tremendously compelling listen and makes a terrific companion piece for Costa’s Crepuscular Activity album, a duo set of nocturnes with bass flutist Yukari that made the Top Jazz Albums of 2011 here.
No comments yet.