Tone Dialing
Rigop Me

(Evil Rabbit Records)

It still happens, if only once in a while, that I get to be pleasantly surprised by a CD that I've found in my mailbox: a "mysterious object", recorded by an "unknown entity" (at least, unknown to me), that after the proper number of listening sessions reveals itself to be, if not an unprecedented masterpiece (I'm very sorry to say this, but for a long series of reasons, our present time is not the most favourable era when it comes to producing masterpieces), at least something that reveals a skillful use of form, and the chosen technical means.

This is the case with Rigop Me, an album that (according to the liner notes) is for the most part derived from live improvisations, with no overdubs (but I believe the work, which was recorded by Colin McLean at OT301 in Amsterdam, and mastered by Erst Karel, to have been mixed and edited later). Tone Dialing is the name of a trio of musicians performing here, whose degree of mutual understanding (though "open", the musical line is never vague, or uncertain) tells of a long mutual past knowledge.

The line-up consists of Jorrit Dijkstra on lyricon, analog synthesizer, and loop machine; Paul Pallesen on (electric) guitar, and analog electronics; Steve Heather on drums, percussion, and sampler. It's a trio whose sound, taken as a whole, has a pleasant "electronic" flavour, with a somewhat "lo-tech" (if not "lo-fi") trait that reminded me of Zga's "naïveté" (though this trio don't resemble Zga at all). Here, "at first sight", coordinates appear to be at about halfway between some "particles"-friendly approaches to modern improvisation that put sound under a microscope, and some trends ("illbient"? "intelligent techno"? "slow techno"?) that have the sound develop well inside a rhythm map.

Seeing the name "lyricon" made me fear for the worst: an old, almost home-made, instrument designed in order to give wind instruments the modern potential of synthesis (at a later stage than the Steinerphone, but well before Yamaha's industrial approaches), the lyricon reminds me most of all of Tom Scott's so-so explorations. Here the opposite is true: the instrument's sound is not clichéd, its timbres not so easily "recognizable". I have to add that - I did a Web search after assimilating the CD - Jorrit Dijkstra's background and projects (maybe he's not the leader, but here he's a first among equal) appeared to be quite different from what I had imagined; hence, maybe, a reason why this project is so strong.

At ten minutes, Gumyt Me is a very "user-friendly" opening track: regular rhythmic loops that repeat themselves at intervals that are quite apparent to one's ear, long events over a rhythmic figure, everything clearly placed on the time grid; snare drum played with brushes, a trebly guitar, interesting timbres, a closing rimshot.

For brevity's sake I will define the following track, Fezex Me, as a timbrally more varied and interesting, but totally free from an apparent pulse, version of the previous track. There's an "orchestral" crescendo at about 2' 50", with low-sounding percussion sounding almost like tympani, and two highly dramatic events - frequencies shifting abruptly - at about 5' 24" and 7' 07".

Rigop Me is a composed track, with a slow unison lyricon-guitar which almost works as a theme, with percussion in the background; all becoming faster, almost double-time, the guitar now playing chords; here the lyricon performs a melodic line whose sound changes, from that of a harp to the peculiar, bell-like sound of something going through a ring modulator. "Dramatic" drums enter at 5' 30", in closing we have a brief loop (almost like a LFO cycle).

Overtly rhythmic, trebly cymbals, a bass drum that bit by bit comes to the foreground, with a "medium" groove, Yoxia Me reminded me more than a bit of Can: at first, of Can in their Soon Over Babaluma period, then - when the lyricon started sounding like an "ethnic flute" - of Can in some of their Ethnological Forgery Series episodes; there's a strange guitar, sounding at first almost like a mutation of those "sliding" chords played by classic-era Steve Cropper, then sporting some funky accents!

Oemik Me works quite well in opposition to the previous track: not as rhythmically pushed, it's timbrally quite varied, with a very expressive low-end frequency, and a nasal timbre so typical of the square wave that, near the end, unexpectedly gives shape to a rhythmic figure.

Closing the CD, another composed track: the brief Ziyak Me has a nice synthetic part which almost works as a tuba part, trebly cymbals, and some slow guitar arpeggios; a nice melody played on the lyricon is in the background, then the guitar is playing almost like a mandolin, then more cymbals and drums; surprisingly, the final result reminded me of something quite on the Pastoral (!) side.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2008 | June 4, 2008