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Portuguese multi-instrumentalist David Maranha has made no secret of his appreciation for Tony Conrad’s music over the years, and so it’s not so much of a shocker that this duo encounter with Sweden-born, Philadelphia-based cellist Helena Espvall renews that association. After all, the pairing enables him to explore the productive clash of bowed, amplified strings, a friction that’s at the heart of Conrad’s sound. But this music doesn’t really behave much like Conrad’s mathematically derived intervals. No, I imagine that the scene when this record went down was more along the lines of Maranha plugging in his violin and organ, and Espvall her cello, and then both of them turning their amps way up. Then they said to each other, “Let’s rock.”
Amplified, fuzzed out and phased, these close-pitched, open-ended jams have at least as much in common with another poet of rough string treatment. Back around the turn of the century Alastair Galbraith made some marvelously breaking long tone music with American Matthew De Gennaro and Antipodean fire music with fellow New Zealander Constantine Karlis whose rough grain and third-eye-opening flair comes close to Sombras Incendiadas in texture and spirit. Espvall and Maranha’s timbres writhe and scream in vibrant, combative unison, generating enough electro-magnetic interference in the space between each instrument’s emissions to form a contained but turbulent storm system.
You might wonder if, given the close comparisons drawn to other records, you need to hear this one. If you like to taste and move on, maybe you don’t. But if you get sustenance from a sound, this stuff is fresh new food, cooked according to known recipes but without the books and measuring implements handy. The duo have taken the idea of a dish and made it in their exceedingly satisfying way.