Tesa Musica Marginale


For a few years now, the name of this group has been inside the periphery of my vision, but for some reasons - some of which can be attributed to chance, while other were maybe not so random - I had never had the opportunity to listen to their music. So when I put their new CD into my CD player I didn't literally know what to expect.

I'm glad I can say that I found the album to be pretty good, a pleasant surprise. A quintet that's timbrally quite original, Anatrofobia feature saxophone, bassoon (both acoustic and electrified), sampler, synths and electronics besides the usual drums, bass and guitars. Recording and mixing are also by the group, and they greatly prize function - though the whole presents a poetic dimension (of the cold kind).

The group has thought about what "composing" means - in its many different ways. Sometimes it's quite easy to hear a written theme, while sometimes an improvisation is witness to the confidence these musicians have with each other.

Sax and bassoon are the instruments one hears more easily, along with the electronics and a drum set that could be said as sporting a kind of "dry, Dutch-like" aesthetics. Not quite so apparent, at first, is the electric bass (but it's the bass player who has written most of the music), while the electric guitar works for the most part in an ensemble role. But it's the whole group that functions quite well as a whole, avoiding empty virtuosity and facile, applause-ready solutions.

The five members have obviously listened to a lot of music, and learned a lot in the process. Traces one hears are maybe those more familiar to the listener - I heard echoes of Faust (some "stratified" synths), King Crimson (some rhythmic solutions), Lounge Lizards (a typically "cool" melody), even some Gong. Pure coincidence, maybe. But I also heard a strong affinity for some film music that's easy to remember, but never banal - and sometimes there's what we could define as a "Fellini-like" melancholia.

An album that's as long as an old-time LP (thirty-eight minutes), that others would have released as a double album: so many ideas, here, but absolutely no fat. A whole that possesses its own logic, where the last piece (off Shostakovich) gains value from its position.

Some things will get better in the future - a certain use of dynamics (from piano to VERY LOUD in a split second) is nowadays a bit too predictable as a compositional tool, and anyway in the rock field Robert Fripp had exhausted its possibilities by the time of Exposure (1979).

The fact that a group can spend so much time and effort playing music so obviously rigorous - and absolutely uncommercial - is pleasantly unusual. Hope to catch the group live. Meanwhile, we already have Tesa Musica Marginale.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2004 | April 6, 2004