Locatelli & Braida

Diciannove Calefazioni
Takla / TAKLA2

Giancarlo Locatelli / clarinets, Alberto Braida / piano

Very idiosyncratic and very beautiful improvisations by one half of the Takla Records collective, these nineteen pieces sound like nothing much else on the planet. Individual notes hang in the air; no particular statement lasts for long, and yet the duo manage to sustain a sense of momentum across the silences.

They’ve programmed unusually long pauses between the tracks, perhaps in an attempt to encourage the casual listener to hear distinct pieces. On in the background, these pointillistic, space-filled pieces really can all sound rather alike. Given attention, however, each one emerges with its own identity, and the separation of the pieces was a good idea in helping to encourage this kind of listening.

Braida attacks his piano with a roughly equal dynamic on every note he plays here, or at least seems to. In reality, he has a neat way of playing the main notes at an even fortissimo and, between them, adding grace notes or echoic sounds at a very quiet dynamic level; he’s a real pianoforte player, you might say. Although this is a bit of a simplification — he plays extremely quietly throughout a few of these pieces, and he can pile the notes up when he wants to — the tendency towards a homogeneous dynamic level is far stronger.

Locatelli has a similarly gnomic style. While on some of the pieces here he strings out a longer melodic line (“Caleidoscopio #2”, for example), his most typical way of working is very much in tune with Braida’s. Leaving plenty of space between the notes or brief gestures, his lines hang together by only the most tenuous of connections.

Indeed, it’s the way this duo make their music communicate across the rests which makes them so special. While each individual particle seems unremarkable, they combine into something which, in spite of everything, makes perfect sense. Uncompromisingly atonal and unmetrical, like a high-wire act without the wire, these pieces really ought to fail sometimes, but they simply don’t. Partly this is down to their great sense of timing, partly their careful note-choice makes sense of an environment which has abandoned the usual structural markers. On its own, though, this wouldn’t explain the fantastic music they make from such unyielding materials.

This disc is a triumph of an uncompromising vision shared by two musicians. Many would have cut these pieces with something more approachable; that would have been a mistake. Only in their undiluted form is it feasible to make sense of what they’re up to, and it is certainly worth the effort. One is reminded of some of Braxton’s sessions; there is that level of single-minded commitment about it. It virtually drips with importance, with the feeling of a distinctive voice emerging. Yes, one might compare it with Tippett and Shepherd’s famous “66 Shades of Lipstick”, and in places that comparison makes sense, but this is far more tightly-focussed than that record was. The casual listener won’t get much out of these duets, but they repay the effort that they demand of you over and over again. Richard Cochrane