WS reviews

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Stef Gijssels :: Free Jazz [BE] rate  ****½

I have been listening to this album for the last couple of weeks, and there's rarely been a day when I did not put the album on. And that's a very good sign. And the reason is quite simple : this is weird, mesmerising music, a great sequel to "Materiale Umano", their debut album.

The Italian quartet are Nicola Negrini on bass, metallophone and live electronics, Achille Succi on bass clarinet and alto sax, Philippe "Pipon" Garcia on drums and live electronics, and Antonio Della Marina on sinewaves and live electronics.

The band's music is minimalist in the sense that sounds and sound textures are the critical building blocks of their creations, but then again that is not entirely true because Succi plays long and often moaning phrases, and sometimes sounds are repeated by the live electronics.

Like the novel "Blindness" by Jose Saramago, to which the album's title refers, the universe created here is inhospitable, floating in nature, with several stylistic elements that take out familiarity or discard with known reference points that could provide comfort, while at the same time being human in a very basic emotional way, taking out all the stuff that does not matter. And it is the latter that draws me in, time and time again.The sad sax or bass clarinet, the incredibly powerful and warm bass tones, the precise percussion and the overall uncanny electronics create a superb listening experience.
It is so sensitive that it hurts.

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Glenn Astarita :: All About Jazz [US]

White Sickness is an extension of Scoolpture's 2009 outing for Leo Records, Materiale Umano. Again, the unorthodox lineup intimates the man and machine lineup via the quartet's heavy use of electronics. However, the program is designed with equilibrium, where the live electronics, drums, and sax elements attains equal footing with the effects playing a vital role. The musicians' judicious implementation of the electronic spectrum assists with eliciting vivid imagery and a polytonal basis for delving into semi-structured compositions and improvisation.

With eminent and well-traveled Italian woodwind specialist Achille Succi serving as the primary soloist, the music bespeaks a foreboding viewpoint amid a few acutely placed doomsday scenarios, but it's all in good fun, as the artists convey a genial modus operandi during these works, featuring streaming treatments and Succi's commanding presence.

The quartet paints a delicate metaphor that summons an impression of happenstance on "Undicidue," abetted by Succi's weaving bass clarinet lines atop Philippe "Pipon" Garcia's gently tumbling rhythms, while they depict a discombobulated planet during "Diecidue," which is built on slithery and tingling electronics and asymmetrical pulses along with intimations of lament.

They venture into minimalism and microtonal fundamentals, then elevate matters into a scorching exposition, topped off by reverberating backwashes of alien sounds on "Tredicidue." Other movements are engineered with shadowy motifs, gurgling undercurrents, and LP scratches on "Quindicitre."

Delightfully strange and insightfully concocted, Scoolptures reemphasizes some of the wonderful strangeness occurring in the European avant-garde and improvisational strata. It is an interesting concept, from a band that embraces solidarity and a resolute line of attack. The sum of the bouyantly moving parts transfer to disc in meritorious fashion.

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Todd McComb :: JazzBlog [US]

The runner-up album for 2011 is White Sickness by the Italian quartet Scoolptures, and this is quite a thought-provoking album. The basic musical material was developed over three years, based on research by bassist Nicola Negrini (b.1967), and worked out in an improvisational context by the quartet. This album was actually recorded in the same two-day April 2009 session as Scoolptures' first album, Materiale Umano.
Although the albums share the same sound world and important elements of musical vocabulary, White Sickness has the greater structural sophistication. It's difficult to imagine a sequel coming out of the same recording sessions that could be more compelling than the original release, but that's exactly the case here. Upon initially hearing White Sickness, prompted by the New Ears list, I found it rather fascinating, and so immediately ordered Materiale Umano. I subsequently held off listening again until I could hear Materiale Umano a number of times, and the two in sequence.
With its notable, electronics-based creativity in harmony & timbre, Materiale Umano retains a basically routine structure — call it sentence & paragraph — with repeated lines. The different tracks are named after body parts, with the word "slice" appended (although I do not know what body parts are referred to in all cases, and these are not necessarily literal physical parts), and tend to produce a rather direct & unified mood. My favorite track is the opening Brainslice (probably suggesting that I can be overly cerebral).

With White Sickness, that directness of structure is gone, and the sentences & paragraphs take on a variety of forms, with much less strict repetition. Is this directly motivated by the writings of José Saramago, credited in the liner notes and from whom the title is taken, known for his extremely long sentences & paragraphs? Probably not directly, but the greater variety of musical flow derived from the material makes White Sickness a more appealing album.

Regarding the musical material itself, the album begins with a solo by Negrini on bass & metallophones, integrated electronically into something sequentially resembling a single instrument. It's a striking sound. The main point of the research into this music would seem to be its use of electronics, namely in determining an interesting, yet human, way to use them. As I've remarked, electronics give one the option of making literally any sound, so they raise more questions than answers.
Here the Italian quartet attempts some answers, coming out of a study of music, psychology, philosophy, etc. What's an interesting & distinctive use of electronics in a group improvisation context that still comes off as human & musical? I don't know that this question was the focus of their inquiry, but it's what sounds through to me in the music, and if so, they have good answers.
Personally, where I've been finding electronics most directly compelling musically is in the opportunity for very clear & very high tones [*]. Other instruments have difficulty with clarity in those registers, and clarity gives one the option of keeping musical relationships and their overtone relationships clear, and then modifying them. Scoolptures does not use electronics entirely in this way, also using them to blend sounds as mentioned, and to manipulate other aspects of their interaction in real time (echoes, etc.).

The sound can be a bit shocking at first, just in its novelty, presumably hence the relative structural simplicity of Materiale Umano, but it does open up for the listener after more hearings. The activity is not especially dense (medium dense, I suppose), with Antonio Della Marina playing "sine waves" alongside Achille Succi on clarinet & saxophone. The latter often dominates the aural surface of the music, with the electronics coming to the fore more subtly, yet with a lot of power at times.
Philippe Garcia on drums pairs with Negrini to form a creative rhythm section that more than holds its own in what is in some ways an almost "traditional" free jazz quartet. (And note that Materiale Umano includes manipulated vocal material by Philippe Garcia, as well as Achille Succi playing shakuhachi — rather distinct from his usually screechy reed emphasis otherwise.)
This is an ambitious album (or set of two albums), successfully & enjoyably so.
The dedication to Saramago makes for a nice bow on the package.

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Stuart Broomer :: NYC Jazz Record [US]

Scoolptures is an Italian improvising quartet that mixes traditional instrumentation with a good deal of live signal processing. Bassist (and group founder) Nicola Negrini and drummer Philippe Garcia use live electronics while Antonio Della Marina plays sine waves and live electronics. Alto saxophonist and bass clarinetist Achille Succi, the central voice in the ensemble’s work, isn’t processing his signal, but others certainly are: at times he appears in multiple.
The moods of the music can be gauged by the title phrase. It’s taken from the late Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago’s Blindness, a dystopian fantasy in which all but one member of a nameless society become suddenly and unaccountably blind. Scoolptures matches the grim intensity of the novel with a kind of elemental minimalism, an eerie soundscape suddenly broken by unexpected blasts.
Succi’s lines are sometimes almost evanescent, at other times reduced to sustained, machine-like multiphonics. The group provides a theatrical backdrop to that central focus, whether it’s with drum punctuations or electronic squiggles, arriving at points like “Dodicidue”, where the assembling field of sound around Succi’s alto suggests both labyrinth and Minotaur.
Succi and Negrini possess striking timbres. Succi’s alto is capable of a painful lyricism and his warmly liquid bass clarinet can take sudden flight into buzzing overtones. Negrini makes a fine lead voice as well, whether it’s the reassuring fullness of his subtle pizzicato lines or the brilliance of his upper register bowing, marked by a cello-like vibrato.
When the music emphasizes the acoustic duo of Succi and Negrini, as on “Undicidue” and “Seidue”, the sense of responsive close listening and free jazz is strong. Making maximum use of its live electronics, though, as on “Tredicidue”, the group can turn Succi into a sax quartet that combines energy music blowout with the icy electronics of the band’s methodology.
It’s thoughtful work, simultaneously achieving psychodrama and a coolly abstract perspective.

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Johan Redin :: SoundOfMusic [SE]
[google swedish>english translation]

[deep dive] The Italian quartet Scoolptures has now released a second album. I was very impressed with their debut materiale Umano that came out of the same company three years ago.
Quietly, I notice that they hardly have lost the spark. It is just saturated, just as meticulously and really original, the best way possible.

Although they sound quite different, I can not let go of the association for Swedish The Schematics, which has a completely separate entrance to the improvisation and jazz without really going to put my finger on just what properties these are.
But it is leaning toward a very successful integration of the electronics, which never dominates but is a form of "invisible hand" over the music.

White Sickness gives a darker appearance than debutens little more arch ideas. Perhaps it is entitled to the interpretation, but the combination of Achille Succis bass clarinet and Nicola Negrinis strings played bass runs undeniably down temperament at depth. Sounds just like this, I really do not mind staying down there with them.
I have no idea how the receipt of the last album was, but this is about genuine quality and it would be very strange if there is an audience for Scoolptures.

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Marcin Kiciński :: Impropozycja [PL]
[google polish>english translation]

Italian improvised scene is probably the most neglected in our country, is certainly neglected by me. A little strange, because the music is at the heart of Italii development of European music, not only old but also that, from the perspective of interest in improvisation, noteworthy, that the twentieth century. All the more strange that as the progenitors of the European freeimprovu, in addition to the British AMM are mentioned in one breath, after the Italian Gruppo di Nuova Improvvisazione Consonanza (nota bene project in which he began his musical conquest known to us from far more compositional calculated Ennio Morricone), that is, after all, should be return to this country special attention.
It must therefore bow to Feiginem with Leo Leo Records, who obstinately finds musical maniac interest of countries that - do not know why - the others are ignored (particularly in terms just of Italy and Russia). One such project is Scoolptures inventions.

"White Sickness" is the second album and, like the debut was inspired by literature: earlier drew with prose of Cormac McCarthy 's, this time with Jose Saramago.

Ubiquitous live electronics, read out almost every name on the cover of this CD, it worked for me initially quite daunting. Like any acoustic sound fetishist afraid of a little electronics, Scoolptures very pleasantly surprised me, however. In the foreground we have a fairly classic trio, and here are the Digital processing additive. But it can not be underestimated. Although the sinusoidal background corresponds here only Antonio Della Marina, each of the other musicians also have their toys and it is thanks to some parties are imposed on themselves or modified in a more or less readable way. The result is a sometimes dense tissue, which would be impossible to get his hands three or even four people. Highlights on the album, however, are sublime and the dialogue between the bass clarinet, or saxophone. The game is much more readable Succi'ego influence and, depending on your instrument, we hear the echoes of Ned Rothenberg, the Ornette Coleman. Negrini game without haste, but constantly looking for new sounds can be viewed as a partner in the scale. Tracks are largely thumbnails, under which these two, like Charlie Haden on his two great discs recorded in duets ("Closeness Duets" / "The Golden Number") is looking for an intimate dialogue with each other, and the drummer, though a deliberately sets the in the background (sometimes even work against Della Marina), shines a very subtle, yet extremely accurate rhythm. And so, in truth, this is where you would pull out, because even without the rest of the album would be worth the attention, the idea of ​​live electronics, however, can not be ignored. Because it really works. The whole world of artificially generated sounds in a unique way for me to be perfectly przegryza: waves emitted by the tool Della Marina overlap with backmarkers and processed in batches and the melodic bass instrument, and sometimes we lose self-assurance, which draws us more: is this known and familiar world sound, reliable and very emotional playing, or being, like a reflection in a distorting mirror, its unreal version.
I'm glad exceedingly, that the "White Sickness" fell into my hands. Aside because of its individual and compelling advantages, it is a bridge to the world of the Italian scene, which probably high time to pay attention. It seems that just as Germans, Dutch or English, so the Italians can serve us their distinctive sound, and if my intuition is right, it will abound in a plethora of great inspiration, which in the Italian musical tradition, yet it is not difficult.
 

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