Carlos Bica

I Am the Escaped One
Clean Feed CF 519 CD

p class="rtext2">RSLG Quartet

Steps

No label No #

Divergent and appealing variants of how to adapt acoustic instruments to plugged-in ones and vice versa, these sessions demonstrate singular solutions. A veteran working group, the Athens-based RSLG Quartet integrate electronic music and noise from Stelios Giannoulakis’ electronics with improvisations from alto and soprano saxophonist Panayiotis Raptis, drummer Yiannis Leloudas and pianist Vassilis Roupas. A different proposition, I Am the Escaped One matches the mature playing of Lisbon-born, Berlin-based bassist Carols Bica, known for affiliation with many international players from Jazz and the Fado world plus his soundtrack scores, results from a new alliance Bica has with two Germans: tenor saxophonist Daniel Erdmann and turntablist DJ Illvibe.

With the DJ’s platters and manipulations creating every manner of warbles, flutters and textural reconstructions and Erdmann adding irregular vibrations and trills, it’s usually up to Bica’s focused and magisterial string control to keep the session’s 10 selections on a chromatic path. For instance, almost from the top of “Les Frigos” Bica’s grounded pumps are challenged by stuttering sax trills and squeaks plus thumps and distortions from DJ Illvibe, By the time the bassist establishes his turf with guitar-like chording, distorted peeps and repeats from the vinyl turn into variations on a lament, that verbalizes “drop the beat” and later “get the fuck off this track”. The disruptions that speed up and slow down with patched-in vocals that fluctuate between those of an operatic basso and Donald Duck’s, as well as Erdmann’s reed pushes, again demands the bassist to steady the narrative. Similarly the subsequent and linked “Do Indizivel” and “El Bachir” refine the concept further. The first is enlivened with a mid-section double bass intermezzo of near flamenco strums that bridge the drum-and-accordion set up vinyl-sourced by DJ Illvibe and precede Erdmann’s emotionally accompanying samples of the guitar playing and singing from a Robert Johnson 78 reconstituted with dissected guitar twangs and swallowed verses. Bongo-like pops from the tuntablist make “El Bachir” a coda to the previous track as Bica and Erdmann provide a contrapuntal narrative.

Other tracks serve as individual showpieces. They include tenor saxophone vibrations in anthemic style, facing noisy rips, tears and windy bird whistles and bee buzzing from shaped vinyl (“Ich Hab' Die Nacht Getraumet”); contrapuntal exchanges between saxophone flutter tonguing harmonies and double bass tremolo swats that create a rhythmic continuum (“Caruma”): and even an unmatched display of LP manipulations with flying-saucer launch explosions, outer space-like gravity-less suggestions and a lyrical soprano singing (“Cabaret Macabro”).

The instrumentation may be different than Bica’s long-running trio with Frank Möbus and Jim Black, but the CD demonstrates how the bassist, and by extension Erdmann, can coexist with new technologies to create profound statements.

Creativity is also evident on Steps, as the RSLG Quartet shows how cannily it integrates electronic and acoustic improvisations. As modular crackles, pops and eventually disembodied voices and thudding are prominent on “Radio” the appropriately titled first track, piano cascades reed slurps and clattering percussion join to set up the CD’s parameters. From that point on the joy arises is in noting how matter-of-fact the two streams of sound compliment one another. For example “Electro Step” may include all vanities of granular synthesis expressed through voluble oscillations, bleeps, buzzes and smashing noise, but among the blurry interface, trills and squeaks from the saxophonist and positioned rat-tat-tats from the drummer. In contrast, the track “Drum Step” may suggest a showpiece for Leloudas’ percussive smacks and cymbal sizzles, but the narrative is built up through multiphonic saxophone snarls, high-frequency comping from the pianist and telephone busy signal-like buzzes from the electronics.

There’s still enough space for acoustic virtuosity as well. Near recital-ready, moderated keyboard extensions from Roupas are marched out alongside Raptis’ top-of-range sips and split tones on “Perioxes” along with buzzing from Giannoulakis’ instruments and nerve beats from the drummer. While “Sax Step” links a meditative piano line alongside a reed strategy that encompasses subterranean honks, upwards breaths and finally winnowing slides. More crucially the measured drum patterns, near-swinging piano cadenzas and explosive reed bites, join with Giannoulakis’ tone-switching and vocal samples to not only propel “Drive/Coda” to a defined summation, but emphasize patterns that link that track to the introductory one.

Electro-acoustic improvising is one part of modern’s music and these groups demonstrate how shrewdly it can be used.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Steps: 1. Radio 2. Interplay 3. Perioxes 4. Sax Step 5. Drum Step 6. Electro Step 7. Piano Step 8. Drive/Coda

Personnel: Steps: Panayiotis Raptis (alto and soprano saxophones); Vassilis Roupas (piano); Yiannis Leloudas (drums) and Stelios Giannoulakis (electronics)

Track Listing: Escaped: 1. Caruma 2. Ich Hab' Die Nacht Getraumet 3. A Luz Da Sombra 4. The Fuel of Life 5. Les Frigos 6. Do Indizivel 7. El Bachir 8. Cinema 9. Le Jardin 10. Cabaret Macabro

Personnel: Escaped: Daniel Erdmann (tenor saxophone); Carlos Bica (bass) and DJ Illvibe (turntables)