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Fail Better!: Zero Sum

Eyal Hareuveni By

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The name of the Portuguese quintet Fail Better! is inspired by Samuel Beckett who advised: "ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better." This saying, together with the one of Miles Davis who claimed that there are no mistakes in music, capture the very essence of the process of free improvisation. And, obviously its real-time sense of experiment and discovery, a walk on a thin line between magic and the sonic equivalent of psychodrama.

This collaborative quintet was born out of pre-existing projects and bands located in Coimbra, Porto and Lisbon. Its musicians—guitarist Marcelo dos Reis, drummer Joao Pais Filipe, alto saxophonist João Guimarães, double bassist José Miguel Pereira and trumpeter Luís Vicente—were recorded live in the Salão Brazil club in Coimbra, in the third of a five concert tour.

The free improvised music is developed patiently and slowly, stressing deep listening and a highly supportive interplay, rich with imaginative ideas and nuances. On the first piece, "Bright Red," the whispering trumpet of Vicente and alto sax of Guimarães set the contemplative, dark tone, before the guitar of dos Reis introduces a bluesy vein. The three continue to develop through game-like dialogues the introspective, bluesy atmosphere on the following "This Is Our Gun." But now with more power and dramatic sense, enjoying the colors that Filipe and Pereira add to this kind of slow-burning interplay.

The quintet dares more on the open-ended "Fallout Breeders" and "The Growing Border," applying the Beckett advice beautifully. All explore different timbral angles, search for new textures, challenging dynamics, and fractured pulses, but none is attached to any of these but to the flow of the music. The sonic searches on "The Growing Border" accumulate into an intense, powerful attack that reaches its climax with a noisy, distorted solo guitar of dos Reis, referencing Sonic Youth guitarists' Thurston Moore and Jim O'Rourke experimental forays. The last, "Challenge/Challenges" begins as a gentle, ritual dance of Guimarães, Vicente and Filipe, that slowly intensifies when des Reis and Pereira join till it culminates with a powerful, dense wall of sounds.

Fail Better! is an impressive ensemble of resourceful and imaginative improvisers.

Track Listing: Bright Red; This Is Our Gun; Fallout Breeders; Dysfunctional Wire; The Growing Border; Challenge/Challenges.

Personnel: João Pais Filipe: drums; João Guimarães: alto saxophone; Marcelo dos Reis: electric guitar; José Miguel Pereira: double bass; Luís Vicente: trumpet.

Title: Zero Sum | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: JACC Records


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