Cobra cs828









Carlos Santos (b.1967) has been something of a fixture in this space as well, although usually more in the background: Santos has designed most of the Creative Sources packages for years, so his work has often been in front of my eyes (as I've remarked upon it here at times...), but often in front of my ears too — as Santos has appeared musically on many albums, mostly with Ernesto Rodrigues. And usually he's been credited with "electronics," but these are rarely of the "in your face" sort, rather an added high (or low) pitch here & there, extending tones, shaping harmonics... & now more often on "modular synth," although his actual contributions seem similar. Santos hadn't been as active musically the past few years, at least not so that I noticed anyway, but that's changed lately with a recent burst of albums (all on Creative Sources). I particularly want to focus on Cobra then, the latest album from Lisbon String Trio, recorded last month with Santos as their guest: Cobra continues to be something of a departure for LST (Rodrigues, Miguel Mira & Alvaro Rosso), first in that it adds electronics, and second in that it continues a trend of adding a frequent Rodrigues collaborator — as opposed to the earlier recordings, which involved relative unknowns, then followed more with "stars" of the Portuguese scene. Recordings have become less frequent as well: Isotropy (with Luis Lopes, there on acoustic guitar...) was reviewed here in May 2020, and already presents less of a concertante interaction, with Lopes fitting more into the texture, and often (somewhat tentatively) following the trio. The next LST album was then Dada (reviewed in May 2022) with Bruno Parrinha, who'd been making an extensive series of recordings with Rodrigues at the time, likewise staying (as usual) within the texture, inflecting resonances etc. — to yield an album exploring a variety of motivic shadings & inflections. So these descriptions might fit Cobra as well, now with electronics! The result is a sort of supercharged string trio, with extra range & richer harmonics, yet not immediately noticeable as involving electronics. In this, an obvious comparison is with the latest from string trio KSZ, now also electric (& more noticeable as such) on Black Forest Diary (as reviewed here in April): There the string players employ electronics themselves (rather than involve a fourth musician), and the result is more novelty, almost creaturely at times (pace industrial hybridity...), various extremes, but also evolving within an ethos of quiet/Silence. Cobra can sometimes be more quiet or thin, but is also generally assertive, maintaining a sense of a coherent arc — already a feature of LST since their trio-only Proletariat debut (reviewed here in July 2017, as part of a massive entry...) — with the coordination of e.g. its opening gesture being among the most striking of its passages (i.e. before the texture loosens at times...). Of course, orientations around silence are not uncommon for Rodrigues, and Santos has been involved with various such projects: Impulses and Signals, from their trio with Nuno Torres (named Rotor... so presumably intending more?), recorded in early 2023 (but not released until later, as mentioned here in March...), had already projected more of an open, Cageian vibe (although not especially quietly) — even a sense of desolation developing over its relatively long length.... That vibe then continues to a degree with the new Synopsis (also recorded last month, two days before Cobra...), with André Hencleeday (another regular collaborator...) joining the "Rotor" trio on piano: That album ends up with more clashes & (motivic) intricacy around piano, although it begins with modifications of already struck tones... & both highlight individual sounds more than the denser interactions typical of LST. It's also typical of Santos to be a "second keyboard" there (as arguably also on Mars Reveri, as reviewed in April...), per e.g. Quelque chose prie la patience des nuages — reviewed here in May 2022 as part of the same "set" of post-pandemic Rodrigues releases as Chiaroscuro, a bass-less quartet (albeit sans Santos) that might also be worth comparing to Cobra: The former can come off as "more classical" at times, but conversely features percussion (e.g. yielding a sense of attack, pace piano elsewhere — i.e. versus the generally smoother tones of Santos...) & a sort of "crispness" grounded in the acoustic realm (with clarinet handling more of the "electronic" background resonances...). Maybe that's a strained comparison, but the "shifting waves" of so many recent Rodrigues projects are well developed on both, tending darker or even becoming stormy on Cobra.... And then there's also the new Surrealistisk, a long quartet album (recorded this past April) with Rodrigues & Santos joined by Girilal Baars (voice) & Monsieur Trinité (percussion): The latter returns already from e.g. Free to Open (also reviewed here in April), while Rodrigues is also on crackle box (again, per Synopsis & Impulses and Signals...), adding to the sense of overall weirdness (apparently including squeeze toys from Trinité, as already speculated in the earlier review...) with its vocalization vibe. (And Surrealistisk once again features a generally open texture or landscape, quite a bit of distension, with an emphasis on strange sounds. The same might be said of Die Zwitscher Maschine as well, recorded already in May 2023 — after Impulses and Signals... — by Rodrigues & Santos with Parrinha & Flak, and featuring its own rendering of a sometimes-desolate landscape amid both zoomimesis & ringing "new age" tones.... And maybe I should mention Santos' earlier duo with cellist Ulrich Mitzlaff, I/O & their 2021 album Studies on Colour Field Modulation too....) And then I should explicitly note Baars, who varies his level of presence here (& does sometimes involve some words, but often remains low in the texture... including as a sort of distant howling at times), having appeared previously on Lab H Tapes (where he also plays hurdy-gurdy, so evokes a particular folk style, as noted in a March 2020 entry...). So coming back to Cobra, the sense of "waves" there takes on added dimensions, not only via the larger resources of the string trio, but in terms of sophistication & coordination, including by Santos "enriching" the strings in a variety of (usually non-obvious) ways. (And perhaps the best comparison for this sort of "intensifying" contribution is then actually Echoing the Chorus of Life, with Carlos Bechegas, reviewed here in March....) So although the synth/electronics do bring a sense of "extra," a sense of mystery perhaps (never really asserting...), there's also a bracing sense of physicality already from the strings on Cobra, i.e. not so akin to the more Cageian & open textures around Santos on these other albums. (Including via its quasi-classical string context then, LST remains oriented more toward the human-rhetorical musical pole, i.e. neither as depersonalized nor especially naturalistic....) Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts