Ernesto Rodrigues

Contre-Plongée (Six Cuts for String Quartet)

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Not taking its instrumentation into account, this album lands squarely within Ernesto Rodrigues' average -- a demanding, intriguing, and fascinating studio session, but not as gripping or involving as his previous release, the wonderful Cesura. But as a new proposition for the string quartet format, it makes a much more powerful statement. This is not a string quartet in the traditional sense: there are two violins, one viola, and one cello, but Rodrigues plays both violin and viola. The fourth player is José Oliveira, usually a percussionist in Rodrigues' projects, but here playing acoustic guitar (often prepared -- it sounds like a kalimba in the closing "Cut6") and occasionally scraping the strings of a nearby piano. Contre-Plongée is a French photo/cinema expression meaning "low-shot angle" or, within a sentence, "from below." "From within" would have been more appropriate: surrounded by scratching, tapping, brushing, and -- yes -- occasional bowing, the listener has the distinct impression of sitting within one of the instruments -- or at the very least in the middle of the quartet, with the musicians sitting very close. The fact that the six pieces are titled "Cut1," "Cut2," etc., that they are presented in non-chronological order, and that a graph at the back of the booklet puts them in sequence all imply that the music comes from a single 49-minute improvisation, broken down into six cuts and reassembled in a different order. If that is so, the editing job is seamless and the resulting "piece" makes as much (if not more) artistic sense than the original (and by programming the tracks in their namesake sequence, one can easily make the comparison). The whole piece is dense despite its ample use of silence, abstract and mysterious, but it lacks the level of interplay and the immediacy of Cesura or Assemblage, except in "Cut1," which contains the most rapturous moments of the disc.

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