miércoles, junio 08, 2005

Un orgullo nacional

Pablo dice:

Desde este blog les informamos con todo orgullo que un gran amigo nuestro, Mr. Jorge Luis Fernandez, ha escrito su primera nota para el mensuario ingl�s The Wire. Mientras esperamos a que le llegue su jugos�simo cheque en libras esterlinas y nos invite unos ravioles a la bolognesa en su maravilloso departamento con vista al Parque Lezama, copiamos y pegamos el art�culo. Aclaraci�n para los que siempre chillan: la nota est� en ingl�s, y la verdad es que no tengo ni ganas ni tiempo de traducirla. Un brindis por George & enjoy!

Global Ear: Buenos Aires

"We used to improvise for 30 or 40 hours, recording everything onto [old] cassettes by the likes of Toto" says Alan Courtis, referring specifically to his group Minexio VIII, but expressing a subversively irreverent approach to the process of music production that is typical of all the work of this irrepressible Argentine musician. Formed in Buenos Aires in 2002, Minexio VIII's line up brings together Courtis and fellow musicians Roberto and Pacu Conlazo, with a number of their non-musician friends. Courtis founded the group following the "terrestrial death" of Reynols, the extraordinary outsider music trio that he and Roberto Conlazo shared with Miguel Tomasin, the Down Syndrome singer and percussionist. Historically, Minexio VIII?s use of non-musicians might recall the enthusiastic amateurs of The Portsmouth Symphonia, but it also parallels the emergence of another post-Reynols initiative, Sol Mayor, an orchestra made up primarily of musicians with Down Syndrome.

"It is only the end of a cycle", Courtis says, referring to the winding up of the Reynols project. "In fact, we're all still playing together, with Roberto in Minexio VIII, and with both him and Miguel in the Sol Mayor project. But there was a long debate [about Reynols], one which was upsetting. It was about the exploitation of Miguel. There were people constantly remarking this point, saying that we were taking advantage of him. It was bothering. So we decided to call a halt. Now, we're playing with Miguel specifically for children with special needs in Sol Mayor. We usually do benefit concerts in schools, searching for audiences that could enjoy this music. We play covers of popular songs for them, to dance and sing. And even if they're accesible tunes, they have their weird moments".

Minexio VIII's only performance to date took place last November in Buenos Aires, during the inaugural edition of Courtis's Decibel Festival. As is usually the case when it comes to projects involving the former members of Reynols, the event was shrouded in mystery. As a result there were perhaps no more than 20 people in attendance on the opening night of the festival, which was held at the cheLA Institute, an arts venue that is housed in an old factory in a former industrial neighbourhood on the outskirts of the Argentine capital.

That first night featured solo performances by Norwegian noise musician Lasse Marhaug (aka Jazzkammer) and Nelson Gastaldi, a previously unknown 72 year old Argentine composer who has been adopted by Courtis and Roberto Conlazo as their new guru, following the break up of Reynols. The night ended with a hallucinatory jam session featuring Marhaug and the members of Minexio VIII generating a great roaring sound like an Industrial culture version of Crazy Horse, while Gastaldi's keyboards painted celestial tone colours like Sun Ra circa My Brother The Wind II.

"I just wanted to add some harmonics", was Gastaldi's stark comment after the show. The composer may lack Miguel Tomasin's absurdist sense of humour, but if anything he seems even more otherworldly. Being a composer who has never had an orchestra at his disposal, Gastaldi uses Casio keyboards, rubber bands, vacuum cleaners and pneumatic hammers to realise his compositions which he records by repeatedly overdubbing the individual parts onto ordinary cassettes. Gastaldi also claims he is visited by the spirits of imaginary artists, such as the Czech director Dylio Czoris Koormorny and the Spanish pianist Alber Patz Moloddoff, who uses Gastaldi as a musical medium through which to channel his sounds from beyond the grave. "He's sort of a mythical figure", says Alan. "I admire his interesting music, his dedication and endurance".
Decibel also featured performances by Argentinean noise-maker Pablo Reche, American percussionist/electronic musician Jason Kahn and Marhaug's Norwegian colleagues Sir Dupermann, Tore H Boe, Tom Hovinbole, John Hegre and The Golden Serenades.

"The Decibel project came about after a proposal from Lasse Marhaug, who wanted to visit Argentina", explains Alan, who collaborated with the Norwegian on the 2004 Antifrost label release, North And South Neutrino. "Nowadays, Buenos Aires is partially outside of the international music circuit. During the 90s, when the local economy was tied to the dollar, every mainstream group came to the city. But all this disappeared after the country broke-off. So the festival worked very well as a word of mouth feature. Now we're looking to make Decibel an annual festival. I know that a lot of musicians would like to play here".

Courtis has recently returned from a trip that took him to Japan and the US, where he played alongside other members of the international outsider music community, including KK Null, Makoto Kawabata, Jewelled Antler Collective's Glenn Donaldson and Sun City Girls' Rick Bishop. Of his solo albums, he is rightly proud of the treated-guitar CD Los Alamos, which was issued by Campbell Kneale on his New Zealand-based Celebrate Psi Phenomenon label (the label also issued Reynols's brilliant 2003 album Sosina Arada Mica). Courtis has also recorded a series of releases on which he plays instruments he is not familiar with, such as the self-explanatory Harmonica F'ever (Pink Skull) and Suite Para Marimbas Procesadas (Audiobot Records), scored for processed marimbas. "I guess they could be part of a thematic series which I'll be doing on different instruments", he explains. "I enjoy the impertinence of playing an instrument which I don't have any training with. Of course, I play them from an intuitive angle. They are timbral explorations, searching sides of these instruments which aren't usually explored when played in an orthodox manner".

And then there is the self-released Minexio VIII CD-R, Vida Ps�quica De Los Caracoles (Aguila Records). On the disc the group deploy guitars, keyboards, drums and mouth harp, plus an array of traditional instruments including the percussive bombo leg�ero, woodwinds such as the cuerno and trutruca, and an original Toba violin, which is constructed from a tin can with a length of string attached to a stick. The music is pure avant rock & roll primitive, like Neu! jamming deep in the rainforest.

"I guess this music foregrounds Reynols mantric charm", Courtis suggests. "Being a South American band, we rescue a lot of Latin American music, though it's not like we're doing ethnic music. We get to that through electricity and native instrumentation. The Toba and Mapuche tribes have a lot of shamanic music. They would play constantly for 12 hours. Their music is essentially experimental. So it's interesting to think about an alternative America, one which hadn't been conquered by the Europeans. Imagine: what would an Inca do with electric guitars?"

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