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Agusti Fernandez & Joan Saura: Vents

John Eyles By

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Although their Trio Local, with saxophonist Liba Villavecchia, has been well-documented for over a decade, Vents is the first duo recording from pianist Agustí Fernández and Joan Saura, on live electronics and sampling keyboard. The album was recorded in Barcelona, between July 2009 and February 2010. It is well-titled, and so are its tracks, which share their Catalan names with the eight winds from various compass directions. Time and again during the album, this seems entirely appropriate, as the musicians conjure up sounds reminiscent of whistling wind or its effects such as ominous vibrations and rumbles; yes, they often make it sound as if a hurricane is brewing.

The opening "Tramuntana" (in several countries, the name of a strong northerly wind) begins with hisses and glitches from Saura, joined by inside-the-box playing from Fernández that produces rumbling sounds. Gradually, tension is built using metallic scrapings and whines. Although the piece comes to a relatively calmer conclusion, that tension is not resolved and is left dangling, to be built upon further on the following "Gregal" (the name of the Mediterranean north-east wind). On "Garbi" (a south-easterly wind), both players produce very percussive sounds—Fernández's piano prepared so that the notes have a metallic clang—to the extent that it could be a percussion duet.

Across the eight tracks, there is a consistency to the soundscape produced, making Vents a coherent album that is best listened to in its entirety. Full of drama and atmosphere, its music allows no respite for relaxation; there is no lyrical playing here, instead it builds excitement and a sense of looming danger.

Despite the thematic titling, it is important to emphasize that this is not intended to be "program music"; Fernández and Saura do not sound as if they are deliberately seeking to imitate the sound of the winds and their effects but, instead, are intently focused on reacting to each other to produce dramatic music, which they do, admirably well. Not easy listening but richly rewarding.

Track Listing: Tramuntana; Gregal; Garbi; Migjorn; Xaloc; Mestral; Ponent; Llevant.

Personnel: Agustí Fernández: piano; Joan Saura: sampling keyboard, live electronics.

Title: Vents | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Psi

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