FEDERICO BARABINO & ANA FOUTEL - Piano + no-input mixer (Ilse)

Rubbish day at work, and so inevitably tired tonight, but I have been listening a lot to a few album cover recent days, so reviewing tonight has been just about solidifying those thoughts. Tonight a few words about a release on the Florida based Ilse label. As I had been listening to this release, a disc descriptively named Piano +no input mixer by the Argentinian duo of Ana Foutel (the piano) and Federico Barabino (the mixer) I heard that the Ilse label will now cease operating as a physical releases label and move to a downloads only model. This is has been prompted by the financial improbabilities of running a small label in this day and age, but it will be interesting to see how Ilse fairs in its new format. I am very conscious that I do not give enough space to download releases in these pages, primarily because, well, digital files don’t get in the way like the pile of CDs on the end of my desk do, and they get forgotten far too easily. I need to find a solution to this issue, but I think as more good labels like Ilse move towards digital releases it will become much harder for me to overlook them. Certainly I hope to write about music on Ilse in the future and will try and pay attention to the likes of Compost and Height, Homophoni and others with greater urgency.

Anyway, to this CD with Foutel and Barabino. To the best of my knowledge, until somebody points me towards something to the contrary at least, I have not heard any music by these musicians before this CD. As it is though, this is a good CD by two more Argentinian musicians, following in a tradition that has seen a number of excellent improvisers emerging front he country. There are two tracks, simply named Impro I and Impro II, and the music has a simplicity about it to match. The pieces vary from time to time between a quite sparse, virtually empty aridness to sections of rhythmic pulsing and even some softly melodic passages. The piano varies between “normally” played parts and inside piano abstractions, mostly of the tonal, bowed or rubbed variety, while the mixer feedback is on the whole kept to sinewy, minimal tones, piercing shrieks and some low hums. The disc starts out with some expressive, almost angry attacks at the piano keys, little spiky bursts with the pedals pushed down, so leaving a trail of decaying sound behind. Soon though this all dissipates and a somewhat acetic territory emerges, initially near silence, just the hum of room tone and distant traffic near the Buenos Aries home in which it was recorded, but then thin slithers of shimmering feedback arrive, and just sit for quite some time. gradually soft swathes of inside piano bowing emerge and the track blossoms outwards into a warm, swaying drift of tone. It later then goes off elsewhere, through deep percussive strikes at the piano’s frame to odd rapidly drilling passages of deadened keystrokes. This is kind of how the album then goes on- Foutel seems to go wherever she chooses, from little snippets of tune to crashing hits to washes of vibrating strings. Barabino’s input often seems to disappear altogether, leaving Foutel to play alone, or when it does arrive it sits far further back than the piano’s presence, often getting mistaken, by me at least for the resonance of the piano.

Each of the two tracks here are very hard to pin down. The overall sensation is one of slowness, spaciousness and a mix of tonal and textural elements, but stylistically this is a mysterious release, which is very much to its credit. I suspect that, if I could have been present at the recording it would make a lot more sense to me, and I am repeatedly left wondering how much is happening in the silences here that I don’t know, or I wonder what Barabino may be doing during his apparent long absences. Despite the dominance of the piano, it also wouldn’t be fair to describe this music as piano with accompaniment either, as when the mixing board is there to be heard, it often does play a crucial part and seems to have a direct impact on the piano playing. It just seems to disappear often. Overall then, this is a fascinating proposition of a CD. It is as likely to annoy a person in one place as it will then delight them in others. The combination of the instruments here is a relatively unusual one in itself, but the way the piano shifts about all over the place and the mixer seems to suddenly appear after long AWOL patches makes for a particularly difficult to grasp, and therefore often quite uncomfortable recording. I found it hard to relax listening here, difficult to slip into a particular mode of listening. All of this then is a big positive point for the CD and I found the experience of spending time with it as rewarding as it was perplexing. A fine release, buy it here.

FEDERICO BARABINO - Can you Listen to the Silence between the Notes? (Public Eyesore Records)

The new keyword for musicians 2.0 is „personality“. But with each niche seemingly occupied, each approach tried and tested and the palette of sounds and compositional approaches reaching a point of exhaustion, it's become exceedingly hard to find one's own voice. For the past three years, Argentinian guitarist and electro-acoustic improviser Federico Barabino, too, has gone through various phases, gradually refining his vision of a music nestling somewhere between improvisation and fixed form, microtonal sound art and neoclassical grandeur, experiment and experience. And yet, his particular case has always seemed somewhat unique. After all, when Barabino published „Non-Impulse“, a track off his second full-length Ruido Is Not Noise, everything already seemed to be there: A twenty four-minute space mainly filled with hiss, mysterious humming, singular, emotionally resonating belltones and a handful of all but intangible ghost melodies only once disrupted by a violent explosion of majestic delay, it made use of an aesthetic of emptiness as much as it introduced an element of dramaturgy to the mostly intuitive world of sonic exploration. Ever since, Barabino has seemed on a quest of repeating the intensity of that that first poignant statement of intent, but making use of new means. It has taken him five more albums to find it.

The first thing one notices about Can You Listen to the Silence Between the Notes? is Barabino's maturing as an artist working with the No-Input-Mixing-Board. Quite a few of his previous efforts were still outwardly indebted to the work of David-Sylvian-collaborator Toshimaru Nakamura, today easily the name most closely associated with the technique of playing a mixing board like others would an instrument, using only sounds culled from its internal circuitry. Not only did the title of 2010-release No-Input Mixer openly acknowledge this through its similarity with Nakamura's two No-Input Mixing Board classics from the early 2000's, but it also included an open homage aptly called „Toshi“, which imaginatively picked up on his predecessor's recognisable script. On his latest effort, meanwhile, these references have given way to a far more idiosyncratic style, which replaces the singing frequencies and pointillist plops of his Japanese counterpart with long, almost entirely static sheets of sinewaves. The temptation to plunge deep into the waters of noise has subsided somewhat, kept at bay by the will to let the sounds themselves do all the talking without too much external intervention. It is a philosophy which, too, seems to have a precedent in the work of Nakamura-ally Sachiko M. But while the sensual ultra-minimalism of the latter always had a delicately spiritual colouring, Barabino's brush is filled with earth, clay and wood - the materials of life, applied to a metaphysical canvas.

This incisive development is openly on display here. Between the five- and nineteen-minute mark, Barabino works with two extremely delicate, overtone-rich sinewaves positioned on the left and right channel to make full use of the shifting and phasing effects listeners can experience by changing the position of their ears relative to the speakers. Gradually, the sinewaves' timbre grows from a smooth, ethereal cloud to a more raspy, bronze tone, then subsides to an immobile, concentrated calm. It is only in the final third of the thirty three-minute piece that an aggressive, pulsating oscillation is superimposed on this fine web of tonal stasis, which rises to a forceful climax before beginning a slow but gradual return into the void. In themselves, these operations are of a hypnotic reticence, with none of the elements disappearing off the radar completely or growing into a fully-fledged roar. It is only through the combination with Barabino's guitar, which is shining in its full classical splendour here and appears at four strategic positions throughout the work - at the beginning and end, where it is given three- and four-minutes of solo-improvisation-time respectively, and then, in each section of the long no-input mixer passage making up the main body of the piece - that a notion of storytelling, an implicit narrative, emerges. Rather than establishing an interactive dialogue with these frequencies, the guitar passages seem entirely self-sufficient, almost ignorant of what is going on around them, still continuing to indulge in deeply romantic and sensual vocabulary when the electronics are already washing over them like waves of sulphuric acid.

Barabino, clearly, isn't interested in a fusion of different styles. Rather, he is interested in the idea of contrast in general terms. Against the foil of a very slowly developing backdrop – from silence to subtle sinewaves, hollering noise and back again – his guitar never appears the same way twice. There is a rustling noise towards the beginning and end of the middle section, suggesting the opening and closing of a curtain in a theatre, which adds to the idea of the thematic material being taken through a mirror world, where it seems as disoriented as Alice in Wonderland. It is against this procedure, too, that the album's title suddenly starts making sense. Speaking objectively, after all, there is not all that much absolute silence to be found here at all. In fact, the only instance occurs straight after the conclusion of the first guitar solo, when the audience find themselves alone with their thoughts for two full minutes. Then again, the title of the record doesn't refer to hearing silence, but listening to it. By merely performing the most subtle of operations, Barabino is allowing the listener, on the one hand, to choose his own path through the music and inviting him, on the other, to face his own responsibility and consider the act of completely conscious listening as important as the composer's contribution. To Barabino, the art lies less in providing clear-cut answers than in working through clues, hints and suggestions. For those willing to ponder them, the reward consists in a purifying, surreal and commendably deep experience.
Of course, it helps that the album is not so much a piece of turn-your-back-on the-audience-avantgardism but an almost tender meditation. And yet, there is always a sense of urgency as well: As if following the dream path of a spontaneous impulse, it follows and captures a single moment in time - then rips it to disc.


Federico Barabino est un jeune musicien argentin qui se concentre principalement sur les expérimentations à partir des nouvelles technologies, notamment les tables de mixage bouclées sur elle-mêmes, seul instrument utilisé ici (qui n'est pas sans rappeler Toshimaru Nakamura auquel la première piste fait explicitement référence). C'est quelques mois après une collaboration avec Günter Müller que Federico Barabino enregistrait cet album solo publié par le netlabel espagnol tecnoNucleo (disponible ici en téléchargement grauit).
L'artiste (artisan) sonore ici présent nomme ses matériaux fondamentaux des "erreurs", il s'agit d'un signal électrique qui n'est rien d'autre qu'une imperfection telle que le souffle ou les grésillements propres aux machines électroniques. Chaque erreur forme une strate sur ces quatre pistes, une strate qui se déploie, s'amplifie et se meut aux côtés d'une autre, de plusieurs ou seule. Barabino se situe quelque part entre le réductionnisme Onkyo avec ses ondes sinusoïdales immuables et minimalistes et la harsh noise avec ses superpositions et agencements de strates sonores qui flirtent avec la souffrance.
Si les textures peuvent parfois paraître assez banales aux oreilles habituées à ce genre de musique, leur agencement est déjà plus original. Barabino multiplie les sources et aménage les influences sans distinction, les différentes scènes musicales telles que l'EAI, Onkyo, la harsh noise, l'ambient, ou l'improvisation minimaliste se rejoignent ici dans une œuvre singulière qui n'a pas fini d'exploiter les ressources et les potentialités de la table de mixage. D'où les multiples fractures et ruptures qui agencent les multiples dynamiques mais qui savent toujours accorder le temps nécessaire au déploiement sonore sans tomber dans l'évanescence du zapping.
En bref, Federico Barabino a su créer une architecture sonore qui redonne de la vigueur et de la jeunesse à un art qui tend à s'épuiser dans ses codes et ses idiomes. Des textures assez simples mais auxquelles est accordée une attention particulière et une contemplation précieuse sans être exemptes d'urgence, de violence et de spontanéité. Un artiste qui nous réserve encore de bonnes surprises certainement, à suivre.


The great thing about this release is the extended liner notes that come with it. Everything you always wanted to know about Federico Barabino and Kazuya Ishigami. The latter is the man behind the label, and who worked with Billy?, Daruin and a whole bunch of others. These days he is mainly into computer music. The piece he has on this release is 'CARSAJ' (which is Jasrac in reverse, the Japanese mechanical rights organisation). He uses as an input the sounds from a concert of last year, which he feeds through some computer patch, depicted on the insert. Its a nice piece of flickering sounds, microbes eating away the notes, but also not the most original pieces in the world. Its surely nice enough however.
Barabino's main instrument is the guitar, which studies and teaches. His interest is in a wide musical field, but perhaps we only get to hear his more experimental work which he releases around the world and sometimes in collaboration with others, such Don Campau or Charles Rice Goff III. In his piece here, called 'Solo En Vivo III', its hard to recognize the guitar as such. The guitar (perhaps acoustic or semi-acoustic) is used as a resonator to create a sine wave like pattern, which penetrates straight into your brain if you play this loud. It changes only in a minimal fashion over the course of the twenty some minutes. Very much like a great Alvin Lucier piece. An excellent piece. (FdW) http://www.vitalweekly.net/716.html

FEDERICO BARABINO - ONGAMIRA (CDR by Black Orchid Productions)

We came across the music of Federico Barabino before, when he released together with Charles Rice Goff III. Here he is solo, playing his guitar and feeding the sounds through a bunch of delay pedals and ring modulator. Unlike the recent CD by Ueno (see Vital Weekly 633) in which this marriage didn't work very well, Barabino does a better job. His playing matches his processing better - I use the word 'processing', since I wouldn't be surprised to learn (no information was given with this release) that Barabino first laid down his guitar playing on the computer and then used that create 'shadow' files with ring modulator plug ins which he then mixes together. On one hand highly moody music, but not in the sense of drone music, but rather plucking the strings and adding on a sub-level some kind of ambient background, creating sufficient tension for the material. Quite a nice mixture of improvisation and micro sound techniques with some surprising results. (FdW) http://www.vitalweekly.net/636.html

FEDERICO BARABINO - Ruido is not Noise (Net Label Ruidemos)

Dos temas extensos de estrategias opuestas que detentan, no obstante, cierta cualidad complementaria. “Sound” se explaya en una suerte de noise/ drone de guitarra con feedback, micrófonos de contacto y efectos generados a través de una laptop. La transformación de los efectos realza diferentes planos que vienen a cuestionar la linealidad dronológica. Si se nos permite la metáfora lingüística, se trataría de una especie de sintagma dividido en las unidades que lo componen, apreciables en la medida en que estemos dispuestos a dejarnos llevar por una escucha paciente y concentrada. “Non-impulse”, con una instrumentación similar, bordea los límites de lo inaudible, con amplios espacios de silencio que parecen rodear unos pocos crescendos que se apagan casi en el momento mismo de su nacimiento. A la contraposición entre el ruido del primer track y el aparente silencio del segundo se le suma el contraste entre la intervención directa, casi quirúrgica, del sonido en uno y el deslizarse artesanal, sin atajos ni apresuramientos, del otro. Pero ambos provocan una reflexión similar sobre las múltiples posibilidades y acercamientos al concepto, por cierto bastante huidizo, del “ruido”.

FEDERICO BARABINO - Celula (Noseso Records)

Texturas delicadas, sonidos entrecortados, amplios espacios entre las notas, silencios profundos y una manera casi despojada de ejecutar la guitarra son algunos de los elementos que caracterizan el modus operandi de Federico Barabino. Algo que confirman con facilidad “Expresiones I” y “Expresiones II”, dos extensos solos de guitarra eléctrica que prescinden de efectos y accesorios (aunque por momentos mi oído sospeche que Federico recurre a alguna técnica extendida) para desarrollarse de manera pausada, sin prisas, eligiendo siempre la frase justa y dejándole tiempo suficiente para que disfrute de su frágil existencia, hasta que otra la sustituya. La idea se refuerza aún más en “A veces cuando hablo muero sonando”, composiciones breves basadas en dos textos del japonés Kenji Siratori, que Babarino traduce a sonidos sin preocuparse por el significado semántico de una lengua que no comprende. Una afirmación del poder universal de la música y una forma de comprenderla que remite a los experimentos de Morton Feldman en obras como Triadic Memories.