City of Light
is the follow up to the excellent eponymous debut by Chamber 4
(FMR, 2015) and presents an unchanged line up. It's also a close relative of For Sale
(Clean Feed, 2015), which features three of the same players. Given those connections it shouldn't be a surprise that this live recording from a concert in Paris, the titular metropolis, possesses similar merits. Prime among them is the selflessness of the group aesthetic. Although all four members convince as skilled operators, they put their considerable talents entirely to the service of the unfolding improvisations.
A look at their track records should help fix expectations. Portuguese trumpeter Luis Vicente
's texture-centered mutters, murmurs and wheezes match those of other successful entries in his discography such as Clocks & Clouds
(FMR, 2014) and Zero Sum
(JACC Records, 2014), while his countryman, guitarist Marcelo Dos Reis
has become a fixture on the Lisbon experimental music scene, where he also helms the Cipsela imprint. Joining them is the French sibling pair of cellist Valentin and violinist Théo Ceccaldi
who adroitly stretch the classical tradition into free improv in much the same way as celebrated bassist and sometime collaborator Joëlle Léandre.
Together they create a soul stirring immersive experience, one which covers a broad range of emotions, though most often inclined to the melancholic end of the spectrum. There's usually a feel of both consonance and pulse, though neither becomes overly obtrusive. While it's most often dos Reis who maintains steady momentum, moving between tolling chords and frantic strum, V. Ceccaldi's plucked cello also takes on that role during the slowly evolving feats of spontaneous navigation. But dos Reis is also responsible for some of the more unexpected elements, achieved by his sudden attacks on prepared guitar.
"Part I" opens wonderfully atmospherically, like an eerie swirling mist, conjured by chiming guitar, spluttering trumpet and drawn out string tones. As the interplay turns more agitated, wordless voices ratchet the intensity up a notch, until abruptly the density drops to leave violin and trumpet to dance together over a throbbing tapping. While the destination might be unknown, the means of getting there is firmly established as the foursome trust both their individual and collective instincts. There are no solos to speak of, rather any unaccompanied passages are threads which link the ensemble tapestry. It's one where the beauty and the drama reside in the weave.
Part I; Part II; Part III.
Luis Vicente: trumpet; Théo Ceccaldi: violin and voice; Valentin Ceccaldi: cello and voice; Marcelo dos Reis: acoustic guitar, prepared guitar and voice.