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Evans / Pluta / Altieri - Sum and Difference Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Leave your preconceptions behind, and the art of Evans, Pluta, and Altieri can be considered in the lineage of game-changing sonic adventurers such as Stravinsky, Coleman, and Eno.

Evans / Pluta / Altieri

“Sum and Difference”

(Carrier)

Peter Evans trumpet; Sam Pluta laptop; Jim Altieri violin

Following up my review of the recent Peter Evans Quintet album, “Ghosts”, I was curious to learn more about its featured laptop artist, Sam Pluta, since Pluta’s live processing of the other players was a subtle yet defining characteristic of the session. Pluta, it transpires, is a partner in the New York-based Carrier label1, formed in 2009, which specialises in notated or improvised music for bleeding-edge chamber ensembles such as the Wet Ink Ensemble, of which Pluta is a founder member.

On “Sum and Difference”, Pluta plays laptop in tandem with “custom built software and various controllers"2. On two of its six pieces he is partnered only by violinist Jim Altieri, with whom Pluta has a long-standing working relationship, including six years as founder members of the now rather unfortunately named double violin/laptop quartet Glissando Bin Laden. Pluta’s association with Peter Evans, who plays on the remaining four tracks, is more recent, but on the strength of the two releases I’ve heard so far - this album and “Ghosts” - it’s a fruitful one which seems likely to produce consistently remarkable music in the future.

The two parts of the title track, Sum and Difference A and B, notionally close each side of the album (the release is actually CD or download only). At around ten minutes apiece, these tracks account for around half of the album’s total playing time. They feature only Altieri and Pluta, with Altieri’s violin being “ring modulated by Pluta’s noise-driven fm oscillator circuit”. The results are elemental; quite distinct from the works with Evans. Altieri’s string drones are taken up by Pluta and lashed into sound, with some of the raw texture of the bowed strings sounding out in sustained duress amid the surges and whorls of electronic output. Pizzicato snaps and col legno percussives, grist for the mill of Altieri’s sonic alchemy, emerge as impurities, aural scourings something like the small, whip-crack detonations of wind-lashed grits of sand. These pieces are bracing, invigorating, and fully immersive.

Three of the four tracks that do feature Evans are much shorter (though by no means less significant). The album opens with “Fusion” (2:21) and “Diffusion” (2:46). “Fusion” extrapolates music from the mechanical sounds of Evans’ breathing compacted through the trumpet’s valves and tubing, all submitted to Pluta’s interventions. Quick transitions from one sound event to another blend with continuities. Development in the track’s latter half come with a surge of pulsing electronics which, when cut, prompts a flurry of uninterrupted soloing from Evans. “Diffusion” proceeds along similar lines, but is characterised by an absorbing laying of sound, such that skeins of sonic detail accrete and achieve substance.

“Analysis/Resynthesis” (4:23) begins as a sequence of tiny sound events, Evan’s ‘gestures’, which are subsequently disassembled by Pluta’s software and swathed in broader currents of audio. There’s a lot going on here. Any textual description of this kind of music makes it sound dry, but in fact its alive with absorbing musical incident. As with all of the tracks featuring Evans, it’s hard here to distinguish any sound characteristic of the violin, and so it is hard to determine Altieri’s involvement: it might be perceived in some high, sustained tones at the close. But one of the perplexities of listening to processed sound is that the sound source becomes almost irrelevant. Your best bet for simple musical beauty, and arguably the album’s stand-out track, is “The Long Line” (9:18), which would certainly please an open-eared ECM addict. It begins with Evans’ pure high tones doubled by fragmented interjections - samples - of his more aggressive playing. Alongside this, Pluta summons variable channels of electronic sound. It is the album’s most spacious track. With individual details differentiated and allowed to reverberate in rarefied aural space, it has a sad, ghostly beauty.

Absorbed in the sonic detail of “Sum and Difference”, one is basically listening in on musical process, the recording’s unique “blend of noise and gesture”. I anticipate the routine challenge, how can this be heard as actual music? (which might, of course, be thrown at any number of recordings), and I find one answer in a recent Guardian newspaper article3 by Simon Reynolds, on his perception of a fad for retromania in modern popular music. The author “registers alarm about the disappearance of a certain quality in music: the “never heard this before” sensation of ecstatic disorientation caused by music that seems to come out of nowhere and point to a bright, or at least strange, future”. Well, “Sum and Difference” points to just one such strange future, and the pleasure to be had from it derives precisely from its “ecstatic disorientation” of listeners’ perceptions. Leave your preconceptions behind, and the art of Evans, Pluta, and Altieri can be considered in the lineage of game-changing sonic adventurers such as Stravinsky, Coleman, and Eno.

1 http://carrierrecords.com/index.php?album=sumanddifference&category=all&artist=none
2 All quotations taken from Carrier’s release notes.
3 http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/02/total-recall-retromania-all-rage

Sum and Difference

Evans / Pluta / Altieri

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Reviewed by: Tim Owen

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

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Leave your preconceptions behind, and the art of Evans, Pluta, and Altieri can be considered in the lineage of game-changing sonic adventurers such as Stravinsky, Coleman, and Eno.

Evans / Pluta / Altieri

“Sum and Difference”

(Carrier)

Peter Evans trumpet; Sam Pluta laptop; Jim Altieri violin

Following up my review of the recent Peter Evans Quintet album, “Ghosts”, I was curious to learn more about its featured laptop artist, Sam Pluta, since Pluta’s live processing of the other players was a subtle yet defining characteristic of the session. Pluta, it transpires, is a partner in the New York-based Carrier label1, formed in 2009, which specialises in notated or improvised music for bleeding-edge chamber ensembles such as the Wet Ink Ensemble, of which Pluta is a founder member.

On “Sum and Difference”, Pluta plays laptop in tandem with “custom built software and various controllers"2. On two of its six pieces he is partnered only by violinist Jim Altieri, with whom Pluta has a long-standing working relationship, including six years as founder members of the now rather unfortunately named double violin/laptop quartet Glissando Bin Laden. Pluta’s association with Peter Evans, who plays on the remaining four tracks, is more recent, but on the strength of the two releases I’ve heard so far - this album and “Ghosts” - it’s a fruitful one which seems likely to produce consistently remarkable music in the future.

The two parts of the title track, Sum and Difference A and B, notionally close each side of the album (the release is actually CD or download only). At around ten minutes apiece, these tracks account for around half of the album’s total playing time. They feature only Altieri and Pluta, with Altieri’s violin being “ring modulated by Pluta’s noise-driven fm oscillator circuit”. The results are elemental; quite distinct from the works with Evans. Altieri’s string drones are taken up by Pluta and lashed into sound, with some of the raw texture of the bowed strings sounding out in sustained duress amid the surges and whorls of electronic output. Pizzicato snaps and col legno percussives, grist for the mill of Altieri’s sonic alchemy, emerge as impurities, aural scourings something like the small, whip-crack detonations of wind-lashed grits of sand. These pieces are bracing, invigorating, and fully immersive.

Three of the four tracks that do feature Evans are much shorter (though by no means less significant). The album opens with “Fusion” (2:21) and “Diffusion” (2:46). “Fusion” extrapolates music from the mechanical sounds of Evans’ breathing compacted through the trumpet’s valves and tubing, all submitted to Pluta’s interventions. Quick transitions from one sound event to another blend with continuities. Development in the track’s latter half come with a surge of pulsing electronics which, when cut, prompts a flurry of uninterrupted soloing from Evans. “Diffusion” proceeds along similar lines, but is characterised by an absorbing laying of sound, such that skeins of sonic detail accrete and achieve substance.

“Analysis/Resynthesis” (4:23) begins as a sequence of tiny sound events, Evan’s ‘gestures’, which are subsequently disassembled by Pluta’s software and swathed in broader currents of audio. There’s a lot going on here. Any textual description of this kind of music makes it sound dry, but in fact its alive with absorbing musical incident. As with all of the tracks featuring Evans, it’s hard here to distinguish any sound characteristic of the violin, and so it is hard to determine Altieri’s involvement: it might be perceived in some high, sustained tones at the close. But one of the perplexities of listening to processed sound is that the sound source becomes almost irrelevant. Your best bet for simple musical beauty, and arguably the album’s stand-out track, is “The Long Line” (9:18), which would certainly please an open-eared ECM addict. It begins with Evans’ pure high tones doubled by fragmented interjections - samples - of his more aggressive playing. Alongside this, Pluta summons variable channels of electronic sound. It is the album’s most spacious track. With individual details differentiated and allowed to reverberate in rarefied aural space, it has a sad, ghostly beauty.

Absorbed in the sonic detail of “Sum and Difference”, one is basically listening in on musical process, the recording’s unique “blend of noise and gesture”. I anticipate the routine challenge, how can this be heard as actual music? (which might, of course, be thrown at any number of recordings), and I find one answer in a recent Guardian newspaper article3 by Simon Reynolds, on his perception of a fad for retromania in modern popular music. The author “registers alarm about the disappearance of a certain quality in music: the “never heard this before” sensation of ecstatic disorientation caused by music that seems to come out of nowhere and point to a bright, or at least strange, future”. Well, “Sum and Difference” points to just one such strange future, and the pleasure to be had from it derives precisely from its “ecstatic disorientation” of listeners’ perceptions. Leave your preconceptions behind, and the art of Evans, Pluta, and Altieri can be considered in the lineage of game-changing sonic adventurers such as Stravinsky, Coleman, and Eno.

1 http://carrierrecords.com/index.php?album=sumanddifference&category=all&artist=none
2 All quotations taken from Carrier’s release notes.
3 http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/02/total-recall-retromania-all-rage


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