Alfredo Costa Monteiro + Ben Owen 'Frêle à Vide' (Contour Editions, 2011)

Anticipation turned to delight, as another offering from Contour Editions has graced my ears. Two offerings to be exact, one a cdr and the other a dvdr collab between Richard Garet (visuals) and Asher Thal-Nir (audio). Both of these are exquisitely packaged in double-gated oversized paper. Review of the dvdr release forthcoming.

There is something to be said of the procuring of refined Power Electronics – and something else entirely of the artists who are still attempting to make it – in that anything post-PE is perhaps a feeble attempt to revive a dead genre. Keith Moline from the Wire speculated on the regression of noise into old school forms as a way to curb a lack of contemporary creative steam. Maybe he has a point, there's no use kicking a dead horse. However, I wouldn't begin to knock acts like Baltimore's Copper Glove, for example, who seem more as carriers of the Broken Flag and Schimpfluch legacies, as opposed to just cheap knock-offs. Some artists can just bring the creative flare, even if it's to a dead horse.

I'm not confident of the parallels between Power Electronics and this recording, more like I'm running with an initial thought. If anything, Frêle à Vide borders more on Power-Electroacoustics. Sure, Monteiro and Owen take cues from noise's past, particularly in their use of sustained frequencies and penchants for grime. However, history has proven a strong cut-and-paste mentality among noisicians, and this is somewhat subdued (except in obvious spots) in this work. I also get the sense that the duo have approached the music from the angle of improv - though it's hard to say for sure - allowing for an ebb and flow between players, which, as obscured as it is here, is a style that finds its roots in Jazz.

The two utilize a battery of electronic gear, Monteiro with walkmen and shortwave radio and Owen with a mixer, mic, tone arm, radio and something labeled an op arm. Over the span of four tracks the music tends to crescendo over long arcs, extended quieter sections often submitting to controlled tone bursts. Over the course of these arcs, it becomes clear that the music's austerity is its championing characteristic, as this sort of junkbox "jamming" all too often leads to meaningless prodding and poking, and therefore, a lack of directionality. Not the case here, as it's clear that these two are taking their music to particular places. A fine work.

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