Free improvisation and contemporary music share many aspects, and the goal is the sameto avoid the beaten path of established musical idioms. Of course, sometimes they can both become actual styles, somewhat conforming to predictable strategies, but the most successful instances are those that keep the ambiguity intact, presenting the ideal of "new music" in its purest form.
Nuova Camerata is a new group based in Lisbon that brilliantly merges these two worlds, as this recent release on the excellent Improvising Beings label demonstrates, and is formed by a veteran like Carlos Zingaro alongside other experienced exponents of the Portuguese free improvisation scene like Ulrich Mitzlaff, João Camões, Pedro Carneiro and Miguel Leiria Pereira. The instrumentationviolin, viola, cello, double bass and marimba resembles more a chamber ensemble than a typical improvising unit, and the musicians show a strong classical sensibility indeed, with impeccable technical command of their instruments and an unusual ear for the most minute details.
The record is comprised of seven collective improvisations that cover different moods and atmospheres over the course of the performance. The tonal palette is rich and varied, and the marimba blends beautifully with the strings, creating an evocative musical world that hints at different traditions without conforming to anyone. The narrative dimension is often willingly ignored and pure sound is explored in detail, with space and silence as integral aspects of the musical fact, and the main character is of a definitely abstract nature, made of wide dynamic variations and tight contrapuntal exchanges. The ensemble is often divided in small groupings showcasing the individual voices, that sometimes come to the fore as in a typical soloist role, the others musicians always ready to integrate the musical discourse with carefully calibrated moves that give the performance a constantly surprising quality. Even in the most crowded moments every voice is distinctly audible, and the continuous tension between powerful collective dialogues and subtly placed accents across the sound field make for a challenging and rewarding listen that shows us a rigorous, passionate and unexpected approach to free improvisation. This is, indeed, new music at its best.