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Two major releases from Ferran Fages

John Eyles By

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The Barcelona-born guitarist, turntablist, electronicist, improviser and composer Ferran Fages has been releasing albums since the turn of the millennium. If his profile has not been as high as it might have been that may be because many of those albums have not been credited to him but to ensembles of which he is a member such as Cremaster, Atalón and Octante; in such groupings he has tended to be featured on turntables or electronics rather than guitar.

The years 2014 to 2017 were rather lean for Fages; having released twenty-one albums in the years between 2010 and 2013, in the next four years he only released seven. So, it is a pleasure to report that 2018 saw an upturn, and shone some light on what had been occupying Fages during those quieter years. The start of 2018 saw the release of K(no)t on Intonema, a fine, exploratory collaboration between the label's proprietor Ilia Belorukov, on alto sax and electronics, and Phicus, a Barcelona-based trio in which Fages plays electric guitar. Later in 2018, the arrival of the two albums below, within weeks of each other, clinched it as Fages' best year for some time...

Ferran Fages
Un Lloc Entre Dos Records
Another Timbre
2018

Written in 2017, "Un lloc entre dos records" (A place between two memories) is the third composition of what Fages describes as "a trilogy for guitar and sinewaves," the preceding two pieces being "What Might Occur (re-readings of Triadic Memories by Morton Feldman for guitar and sinewaves)," written from 2015 to 2017, and "Detuning Series for Guitar," written in 2016, revised in 2018. To date, the first part has been performed live but has not appeared as a recording; the second and third parts are here.

Recorded in March and April 2018, "Un lloc entre dos records" is the only track on the album and runs for fifty-four minutes, featuring Fages alone, on acoustic guitar and sinewaves. When composing, Fages says that he is always experimenting with different guitar tunings to explore a timbral approach which allows him to focus on the acoustic phenomena he is most interested in, such as resonance or beating effects. That is certainly true here as he uses a C#, D, C, B, C#, C tuning which is experimental and produces fascinating results. Crucially, the sinewaves are used sparingly and complement the guitar rather than detracting from it; occasional passages of unaccompanied sinewaves effortlessly maintain the mood created by the guitar.

Although the composition is Fages' own, it is no surprise that it concluded a trilogy which began with re-readings of a Feldman piano composition; throughout, the music evolves slowly, immersing listeners in a captivating soundscape that savours every note and invites them to do likewise. Just like Feldman's music, it demands to be heard repeatedly.

Ferran Fages
Detuning Series for Guitar
Edition Wandelweiser
2018

By comparison, the second part of the trilogy, recorded over four days in June 2018, contrasts with the third part in several ways. Firstly, where Un Lloc Entre Dos Records consists of just one continuous track, Detuning Series for Guitar features five separate tracks, ranging in length from seven-and-a-half minutes to twelve-and-a-quarter; their titles are decimal numbers which suggest they could be parts of a larger selection—"3.1," "3.5," "4.2," "3.3" and "2.1." Secondly, the tracks are played by Fages and France's Didier Aschour, each playing electric guitar; no sinewaves are featured. Significantly, Aschour previously distinguished himself on Wandelweiser member Michael Pisaro's Resting in a Fold of the Fog (Potlatch, 2017), playing guitar alongside the composer himself on laptop.

Nowhere is information given about this composition or the recording, so the significance of those track titles remains open to interpretation, as does this music's relation to the other parts of the trilogy. Based on the aural evidence, the key word of the piece's title seems to be "detuning" as each track consists of a series of guitar notes which are bent slightly, by whatever means. From the start of the first track notes are played singly or as pairs in close succession and are allowed to resound for a considerable time, until they have fully faded away, before the next one is sounded. When two notes are sounded close together, the detuning of them produces fascinating and unpredictable interactions between them.

Gradually, a third note is also introduced—sometimes played more softly than the others—which further increases the possible interactions between them. As the album progresses, other subtle changes are introduced without radically altering this basic methodology. Throughout, the combinations of notes are well-chosen so that they sound right together, even when bent slightly. Extended silences between clusters of notes mean that the boundaries between tracks are never obvious and the transition from one track to another is seamless; so, a listener could easily be absorbed in the album's fifty-five minutes from beginning to end and not know it was subdivided into five tracks.

Considered as a whole, the simplicity of Detuning Series for Guitar is as engaging and beguiling as it is daring, far more so than one might imagine from the stark description of it, "two guitarists playing a series of bent notes with silences in between." As such, it is an ideal complement and companion-piece to Un Lloc Entre Dos Records, the two working well back-to-back. Now, does anyone plan to release the first part and complete the trilogy? Whether they do or not, the release of these two parts ought to make people sit up and take notice of Fages, and give a considerable boost to his reputation.

Tracks and Personnel

Un lloc entre dos records

Tracks: Un lloc entre dos records (2017)

Personnel: Ferran Fages: acoustic guitar, sinewaves.

Detuning Series for Guitar

Tracks: 3.1; 3.5; 4.2; 3.3; 2.1.

Personnel: Ferran Fages: electric guitar; Didier Aschour: electric guitar.
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