Xenon cs430









[...] That's especially true of productions from Portugal (think also of e.g. Meia catorze by Basso 3), and at least in part because Ernesto Rodrigues is a viola player himself, Creative Sources has been releasing multiple items in this basic genre (including duos, but also in the trio & quartet configurations that I tend to favor): Xenon (recorded in Lisbon this past February), subtitled "String Theory," is just such an album, with three tracks by Ernesto & Guilherme Rodrigues on viola & cello, Miguel Mira also on cello — with Miguel Almeida augmenting the string trio (not so unlike Pedro Carneiro does the string quartet on Chant) on classical guitar. It's probably worth situating this album a bit: Xenon apparently follows another recent Creative Sources release subtitled "String Theory," Gravity, by an ensemble of seventeen musicians (but all strings of various sorts). That seems rather different to me, but both are acoustic ensembles. Another recent example from Rodrigues is Iridium (discussed here last May), by another string quartet of Rodrigues & Rodrigues, this time with Mira on bass instead of cello & a violinist instead of a guitarist. Iridium is a rather smoothly flowing album, featuring a unified sense of gesture in each of its two tracks, whereas Xenon (also a chemical element) includes a wider range of timbres & dynamics, mixing bowing & plucking into various sorts of string resonances, from harmonics to deep rumblings. Such an ensemble obviously has at least partly a classical inspiration, as did Chant, but also eschews the highest & lowest ranges in order to focus on the middle voices of alto & tenor. Whereas using bass in a string ensemble is a more contemporary innovation, of course the violin & its bright tone (times two!) have been a fixture. (Extremes are a typically contemporary concern, generally, though.) Here the lines are closer, & although extremes can be reached via harmonics or percussive accents, intricate crossing voices seem to be a major feature: Indeed, this reminds me of e.g. Ars Subtilior songs (often for countertenor & two tenors) & some other medieval repertories conceived prior to clearly distinct pitch ranges becoming standardized in the early modern period. (Note that recent favorite New Artifacts also concerns itself with similar ranges, most of the time, albeit there with the timbral contrast of a horn available. And it's much more "lyrical" than the rather diffuse Xenon.) With the plucking, the guitar can be integrated into the ensemble in a variety of ways, although it generally has the brightest attack. There's a delicacy, though, and an emphasis on the edges of audibility, as is so often the case with Rodrigues, making for a rather subdued album, even as it does draw the ear (at least when it's not so quiet, which it is to end track #1) with its complex string timbres. There is a lot of detail that rewards close listening, even if it doesn't yet forge a distinct (or at least a non-quiet) musical statement, and so I am looking forward to hearing more releases of small improvising string ensembles from Rodrigues. There is a lot of latent potential in this genre. [...] 2 May 2017. Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts