Thanos Chrysakis, Wade Matthews, Dario Bernal-Villegas
Duration 55.00 | Released September 2009
Enantio_Dromia was recorded in Madrid, March 2008.
Sound-synthesis + field recordings + percussion.
MaxMSP+Super_Collider & Electronics
Digital Synthesis & Field Recordings
About the Artists
Thanos Chrysakis’ output consists of composition, performance, and installation. He was born in Athens in 1971. After residing in the UK between 1998–2014 he moved in 2015 to Belarus. With several albums to his name his work has appeared in festivals and events in several countries, including CYNETart Festival, Festspielhaus Hellerau – Dresden, Academy of Arts / M:AI (Museum für Architektur und Ingenieurkunst NRW)– Berlin, Diapason Gallery – New York, ohrenhoch - der Geräuschladen Gallery – Berlin Neukölln, XXII “Sound Ways” International New Music Festival – St Petersburg, Artus Contemporary Arts Studio – Budapest, CRUCE Gallery – Madrid, Fylkingen – Stockholm, Relative (Cross) Hearings festival – Budapest, ZEPPELIN festival – Barcelona, Futura 2013 – Drôme, Festival de Música Contemporanea “Ramiro Guerra” – Monterrey, Störung festival – Barcelona, Center for New Music – San Francisco, Västerås Konstmuseum – Västerås, BMIC Cutting Edge concert series - The Warehouse – London . His music has been also frequently aired by RAI Radio 3, BBC Radio 3, Radio Portugal Antenna 2, Radio Nacional de España, FM Brussel, Polskie Radio (Warsaw), Elektramusic (Strasbourg), Undae! Radio and Onda Sonora - Radio Circulo de Bellas Artes (CBA) (Madrid). He composes for electronic and acoustic instruments as well environmental sounds, focusing on the structural, aesthetic and tranfigured capacity of sonic matter. His work was amongst the selected works at the International Competition de Musique et d'Art Sonore Electroacoustiques de Bourges 2005, in the category œuvre d'art sonore électroacoustique, while received an honorary mention in 2006 at the 7th International Electroacoustic Competition Musica Viva in Lisbon.
Advanced academic studies in composition helped French-born American musician Wade Matthews realize he was not interested in telling other people what or how to play. In 1989, he moved from New York to Madrid and became part of the international improv community. Drawing on his knowledge of electronic music, he approached the bass clarinet and alto flute as “acoustic synthesizers”, rethinking their sonic possibilities, phrasing, and relation to breath in a musical language based on real-time creation. When faster processors made laptop synthesis viable, Matthews returned to his first love, tweaking a virtual synthesizer to allow very rapid control of sound parameters for solo playing and dialog with others. In 2007, he founded INTERMEDIA 28 with photographer Adam Lubroth and guitarist Julio Camarena. There, he began to combine field recordings with electronic synthesis in a 2-computer setup that has since become his main instrument.
Darío Bernal-Villegas is a composer, improviser and drummer from Mexico City. Improvisation has been an essential part in his work as composer and performer. Many of his pieces deal with improvisation, as his aim is to create an intense, creative interaction between the performer and the score; in other words, creating the conditions for a more intense dialogue between the performer and the composer.As an improviser he has worked with musicians like Raúl Tudón, (Tambuco Percussion Group, México), Wade Matthews (USA, Spain) Thanos Chrysakis (Greece), Sebastian Lexer (Germany) Oli Mayne (UK), David Plans Casal (Spain) among others. Nowadays, he is working with the Mexican improvising collective Generación Espontánea and with the composer Tom Corona in his group “The Coming Burguers”.
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes - 27.8.2010
By disregarding any potential concern for manifestations that might be loosely associated to a notion of “tonality” (or just consonance), Chrysakis (laptop, electronics, rototom), Matthews (digital synthesis, field recordings) and Bernal-Villegas (percussion) gave origin to six very interesting and uniquely sounding improvisations. The kind of interaction that one gladly listens to, immediately appreciating hues, noises and impressions elicited, without finding words to pigeonhole the result. Which, of course, is great.
The shapes generated by the instrumentation are heterodox and with a tendency to the disintegration of compactness; all are characterized by timbral qualities that make them aurally attractive under many points of view. The mixture of computerized and synthesized emissions works perfectly, remaining halfway through piercing-and-stinging, sweltering and steamily chaotic; unpredictable discharges that replenish vacuums and suggest combustibility. The percussive designs - which, in a way, dominate some of the hypermodern vistas offered by the trio – are informed by a welcome non-invasiveness despite an obvious fractal temperament. It’s beautiful to hear the sound of a real drum skin amidst bubbles, sizzles and hisses, and also noteworthy is the musicians’ ability of letting decipherable human echoes (aircrafts, old records) mix seamlessly with the most erratic electronic activities. The resulting concoction, as heard in “II”, represents the ideal fusion of diverse sonic universes, revealing both the artists’ sensibility in manipulating machines differently and their finely tuned ears towards what surrounds them.
A satisfying release, defined by atypically stimulating sonorities, which deserves the worn-out compliment: “rewards repeated spins”.
Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic - February 2010
Looks like I got lucky with that snazzy DVD box on Profession Reporter a couple of years ago, as it seems Thanos Chrysakis's Aural Terrains imprint has reverted to austere black digipaks since. But the music he's releasing on the label is just as colourful as it ever was, and this fine set of six improvisations recorded during a three-day stay in Madrid in March 2008 is no exception. In addition to his radio, analogue synth and laptop (Super_Collider and Max/MSP for you techheads out there), Chrysakis joins his frequent playing partner Dario Bernal-Villegas on percussion, with French-born Madrid-based American expat Wade Matthews providing "digital synthesis and field recordings", which include the kind of single engine aeroplane lonely drones that our own Massimo Ricci would apparently like to die listening to. Matthews' discography is small but consistently superb, whether he's featured on bass clarinet and alto flute or electronics – 2005's Absent Friends on Sillón is one of the best laptop outings of recent times in my book – and this is another fine addition to it. The title, which connects to the work of both Heraclitus and Jung, translates as "opposite course", which, according to Chrysakis, is "the route that this kind of music takes in terms of what prevails in the music-world" and, more specifically, this particular album's refusal to be neatly pigeonholed. As he puts it, "textural, contemplative, microscopic pieces alternate with a kind of 'playing our asses off' more energetic approach." Matthews' software synthesis works particularly well with percussion: Bernal-Villegas and Chrysakis are the latest Matthews percussion collaborators, following on from Ingar Zach (Mørke Lys), Andrew Drury (Eszent Hun) and Pedro Lopez (Fases), and the music they make together is rich, subtle, impeccably paced – constantly active but never cluttered and dense – and well worth seeking out.–DW
James Wyness [28.10.2010]
I did something unusual in preparing to review this album. I didn’t find out the meaning of the title, Enantio_Dromia, until after I had listened to the music several times. Unlike some who suffer from Hellenologophobia, I gravitate towards Greek terms, in particular philosophical terms which were established originally in one or another form of the Greek language. It must be nice to be Greek. I mean I’d like to be able to become a Greek person when it suited me and then return to being Scottish in case anyone missed me. That way I could maybe get a bit closer to all those powerful Greek words, the signifiers, and their signified philosophical concepts, which I’m sure are reduced in the translation.
I wish I had been able to understand the title simply by reading it. That would have addressed my most pressing need as I listened to the music, which was to understand something of the conceptual background. In this work the forces of intent and intelligence are palpable at every turn. The album is as beautifully crafted as you’ll find anywhere. It is stunning in its clarity, exquisite in its palette of sounds and in its inexhaustible invention the listener will want to return to the music many, many times. I’m no expert (if there is such a thing), but I’ve been round the block several times and with that experience I will set this album down as a benchmark, that is until I listen to something better in a similar idiom.
So, in order to find out what Enantio_Droma might mean I turned to good old Wikipedia (scorned by many academics, but I don’t have a Greek dictionary, forgive me) which tells me that Enantio Dromia is a principle associated with Jung, amongst others, whereby any force produces its opposite, an extreme is opposed, and balance restored; not dissimilar to the concept of ying and yan though Jung is referring more specifically to conscious tendencies. The concept helps to explain so many processes, including certain musical processes; it is a fascinating metaphorical construction, or organising principle, for musical composition. In my investigations into, and correspondence with, contemporary composers and sound artists, I’m discovering that some of the best, in my opinion, have chosen to lean very heavily and very deliberately on psychological, philosophical, scientific and anthropological principles as a means of organising their music. Nothing new in this, I concede, but there’s a freshness and vitality to some of this contemporary work which is very exciting.
Except for the names of the musicians and what they play there are no sleeve note and no track titles, just a sequence of (Roman) numerals and a very important phrase:
All music improvised
The musicians are: UK-based Greek composer, percussionist and improviser Thanos Chrysakis on laptop and electronics (rototom on one track), Wade Matthews, a French-born American who lives in Madrid, on digital synthesis and field recordings, and Dario Bernal-Villegas, originally from Mexico City, on percussion. Matthews edited and mastered the album. In other words a band, a studio album by three seasoned improvisers. I’ve never met any of them, but I know of Chrysakis’ work from seeing his name pop up around the electroacoustic circuit.
Coming back to the ‘all music improvised’ statement, I can only say that the level of musicianship is astounding. Yes, there are moments when hordes of sonic furies are unleashed, there are hints of self indulgence, but you get that with John Coltrane and nobody seems to object. What I find interesting about this album is that the combination of instruments, the palette of sounds chosen, the feeling of human beings playing together (as opposed to machines playing) give the impression that this kind of music has been with us for centuries, like some types of traditional music, yet still remains fresh and vital.
There are six tracks, four at around the 6:00 – 8:00 mark, the other two at around the 12:30 mark. On each listen, something new reveals itself and similarly you have to devote time to the music because on further listening, the creativity and depth in the interplay and improvisation become more evident. I’m particularly reminded of the best examples of acousmatic music.
I could move on to address the intentions indicated by the title, but I’d be here forever. Where do you start with such a wide agenda? Reconciling opposites, restoring balance, across all the parameters of a complex piece of improvised music, dynamics, timbres, textures, density… I’ll leave that to the listener. That way, you’ll discover something about the music that transcends linguistic or literary definition.
The combination of physical and virtual instruments is one of the album’s strongest features. I have to say at the outset that I hold on to the percussion throughout because it gives me, or rather takes me back to, a fixed point in this n-dimensional sonic universe. I’m aware of a percussiveness to the whole album, though not necessarily articulated in beats and rhythms. In track I we are treated to the following: an underlying, complex, unfolding muffled cymbal, or the tail end of a gong, which breaks through the mix; a warped or stretched gamelan sound. There are no beats for any length of time, just little figures or motifs. Track II also has some fine percussive statements – I’d have liked to hear more of these as they seemed to hold down the electronics but that might be a simple matter of inclination. Throughout there are tasteful hints of interplay between the percussive and electronic statements. In fact, everything seems as if it is being played, there and then, by humans. Track IV actually has some regular rhythms as well as one of those loping IDM percussive structures at the start which hints at a loop but doesn’t quite get there. The rototoms lend some sort of measure to the density, complexity, intensity and harshness of the sonic environment. Track V treats us to a simple bell (handbell?) which cuts through the mix every time you hear it and which reminds me of a particular Sevillian Semana Santa procession. In track VI there’s a loose gamelan feel to the percussion.
In a strange way the more resonant percussion tells us that the musical performance space in the recording is our home space. The instruments manage to convey this sense of space, or rather place, (people in a location doing something), not because of any reverberation cues, usually the strongest indicator, but because of the recognisable activity. That’s unusual. Yet this space or place is constantly challenged, undermined, compromised and evaded.
In case you’re wondering why I need to emphasise the ‘live playing’ aspects of this album, it’s because the album is still a studio album. I mean it wasn’t recorded at a venue with an audience as far as I can make out, and it was edited and mastered. What I love about this release is the fact you don’t notice what might have gone on at the editing and mastering stage. I can really believe that what I’m listening to was played there and then.
Track I reinforces this sense of everything being played, activated by human agency – I could digress at length on the importance of the body in appreciating this music, but that’s for the listener to discover for herself. In the depths of the mix I can hear Xenakis and Harry Partch. I can also hear Parmegiani in some of the leaner electronic textures. Towards the end of track I they’re really enjoying themselves. Normally I’d reflect (perhaps uncharitably) on whether the listener is sharing this ebullient mood, but not here. It’s infectious. There’s a lovely balance between the feeling of live improvisation and some pre-compositional decisions, even if only on choice of material. Another ‘playing’ touch in general (tracks II and IV in particular) can be heard in the beautiful and effective touches of orchestration when things drop out quite suddenly, in the case of track IV we are left with the simple combination of bell and tolling rototom. In track V we find another bold and confident sound world. I like the more controlled sections in this track: the drones, the percussive runs and flutters, a hint of the windchime, more uniform textures. Always something being activated by someone, and, importantly, I never tire of the music and of the invention – men at work, always a sense of anticipation.
Track VI has passages which are nicely pinned down again by the percussion (by now I love the format). Three people begin to sound like thirty, similar to string quartet writing, in particular around contrasts, where the quartet can sound like a large string orchestra. I also enjoyed the level of control over the various envelopes of sounds at the end where the presence of some sort of gestural/manual controller became evident. Made me want to have a fouter myself (there’s the body getting in the way again).
Something else which becomes clear by now is that everything seems to be interfered with in some way. Perhaps this harks back to the concept. Nothing is left to develop for too long. There’s a threshold in place.
The field recordings would be an obvious candidates for spatial exploration, but any such tendency is kept under control. There’s enough going on already. In track II we hear a car, birds, an aircraft (I found myself thinking, ‘here’s the field recording bit’). Apart from setting up a fine dronal texture, the aircraft recording treats us to a clear representation of an outdoor space, with the required ambient ‘gristle’. Then a very fine but predictable panning sweep of the aircraft, clearly anticipated, incidentally, by a fine panning sweep in the preceding gristle, or at least I heard it as such. I’m reminded of Christian Calon’s subversive tactics in La Disparition. Any hopes of a comfortable spatial representation are soon dashed as we enter into an indoors space with stretched and squeaky metal doors under duress. Track III breaks into a reverbed space from the start – filmic and atmospheric, like a space movie (I can’t help constructing these narratives). Hissy gases complete the illusion (why is that such a cliché in space movies? – bad hydraulics? – if I was an astronaut I’d be talking to my engineers, not to mention Health and Safety). I was by now expecting to hear the classic but over-used electroacoustic metallic kerwhang sound over the top of the established texture. The music then gets very busy and fixing a space becomes impossible. Any representative tendencies are aborted, though they were certainly encouraged. This is an interesting dialectic, that between the mimetic/representative and abstract sounds. I should also mention good use of the stereo field, across and through all possible dimensions, especially in track VI.
The palette and the kitchen sink
With electronic instruments and field recordings, the palette of available sounds is infinite. With percussion it is huge. On first acquaintance with this album you might get the feeling that these guys have thrown the kitchen sink into the mix, but you’d be wrong. Or at least, if the kitchen sink does make its appearance it’s thrown in tastefully and is made of the finest materials.
The field recordings are distinctive, carefully crafted and well presented. Restraint is evident. The electronics – I take these to be the laptop ’stuff’ and the digital synthesis – behave like instruments. Similar sounds seem to reappear across the six tracks. I’m listening to an ensemble. Again, restraint and taste.
Track I offers us a wealth of sine waves and high frequency material. There seems to be a game of risk here where the sounds might just overpower the listener. The tight palette, orchestral at times, is compromised towards the end of the track. Track II has radio bursts, static, sinewaves, electronic drones all of which take over the foreground, ‘drying up’ the space. Amidst more massive sinewave statements there is excellent control of the separation of layers and their intertwining movements through time. Things become very intense – here the organising principle becomes clearer – I’m starting to think of the title and to look for some sort of representation of extremes and their opposites. The Mediterranean ballad and the hint of Autechre are well delivered. Track III introduces a sense of contrast with its gentler introduction, its ebb and flow dynamics, synthetic FM sounds, beating and harmonic sweeps. In track V we have some recognition of favoured sounds (yes, a large palette, but not so large as to appear randomly chosen) The lid is screwed on tight in this track (it’s one of the two longer ones), but the brew always threatens to boil over. Only the tiniest smidgeon of hackneyed sounds overcome by the joy of collective improvisation as the music build up to sonic mayhem – sirens burst through, a ‘metal’ groove trundles past as the drones plus figures remind me of raga in the abstract. Track VI begins gently leading to pitched material, hissy gases and more large squeaky metal objects in motion. Statements, then violent onslaught. After the carnage the music tails off with a fine sense of ebb and flow, tension and release. For a short spell I’m actually thinking in terms of simplicity.
Thoughts on improvisation
When playing responsively in group improvisation there are degrees of transparency. How openly do you play on the development of motifs, layer up the textures, work to an abstract concept? When, if at all, do you change from pre-arranged or even compositional ideas to flat out free improvisation? To what extent have you decided to work within the terms of an underlying dynamic or morphological map based on energy arising from the input of human activity into the instruments, be they physical or virtual? The last of these of course might be being played with as much physical input as the percussion.
I’ll say again that I like the percussion (from all the players) and would point to the skill involved in NOT giving in to embodied/memorised patterns – this is very difficult for trained percussionists. Let’s leave guitarists out of this discussion for now….
There is no structural use of silence, but to be fair I don’t think they want it. And in their favour, there are very few predictable crossfades and dynamic shapings – whatever was done in the editing is well concealed.
Finally, I hear this as corporeal music. At the risk of making this review useless, words have their inadequacies when faced with certain forces.
The musicians succeed in stamping their personality on the music, which surprised me at first but which opened my ears to new possibilities in electronic music. I would, however, still like to learn more about what is considered to be improvisation and what is considered to be editing and mastering in relation to this work.
Finally, I’m trying to think of a listening context for this type of music. Three am. stoned and in the ‘dead cat’ position is one scenario. But there’s another possibility, a much better one and I’m not sure how to frame it, but there was something incredibly physical and corporeal about this album, something invasive, yes, in an almost erotic sense. I can’t believe I’m saying this, particularly being straight, Scottish, male and working class, but I actually enjoyed it. The sheer physical energy of the musicians’ playing has somehow leapt off the disc into the listener’s body or at least on to some sort of corporeal substrate. Something of the ecstatic that we’ve lost over the years. So, again at the risk of writing myself into oblivion, I’m going to suggest an unusual but liberating course of action. Don’t think too rationally about this music. Dance instead, gesticulate, vocalise and utter, move your limbs in an uncoordinated fashion, think with your body, look for your feminine/masculine side, reconcile your opposites, above all be in awe of the music.
Nicola Catalano, BLOW UP 140
"Ciò che si oppone conviene, e dalle cose che differiscono si genera l'armonia più bella, e tutte le cose nascono secondo gara e contesa", così scrive Eraclito nei suoi "Frammenti" a proposito della enantiodromia, ovvero il gioco degli opposti nel divenire. Chrysakis, Matthews e Bernal-Villegas applicano il medesimo concetto alle modalità impro-elettroacustiche dell'album sì titolato. Suono riccamente materico a svilupparsi da dailoghi minimi che via via si infittiscono in crescendo catastrofici, fino a colmare ogni spazio disponibile. (7)
Dave X - Startling Moniker - January 2010
In my opinion, it’s damn near impossible to go wrong with an Aural Terrains release. Although this disc was well out of my depth to review properly, I have sincerely appreciated the incredible level of musicianship that is maintained throughout these fully-improvised works. While this quality alone couldn’t put any album into my year-end list, it is the fact that I find it identifiable among music that eludes me so thoroughly– I’ve found that a sense of confusion is not entirely unhealthy when confronting experimental works, tossing us about in our thoughts leads to new perceptions and understandings. I’m not at the end of my journey with “Enantio_Dromia” yet, and I doubt I will be for quite some time.
Boris Snauwaert — Gonzo Circus — 14.06.2012
Het muzieklabel Aural Terrains is op de eerste plaats geïnteresseerd in geluid. De muziek zit in de geluiden. Om dat idee over te brengen heb je geen traditionele compositorische middelen als structuur, melodie en ritme nodig, maar een stel oren die willen luisteren naar geluiden die we in het dagelijks leven wegfilteren uit onze bewuste perceptie. Enantio_Dromia is de meest recente uitstap in dit veld van auditieve exploraties. Thanos Chrysakis (laptop, elektronica, rototom), Wade Matthews (digitale geluidsynthese, veldopnames), en Dario Bernal-Villegas (percussie) namen al improviserend zes nummers op. Geluiden brommen, zoemen, gonzen, fluiten, rammelen, rinkelen, tikken, ratelen, klepperen en piepen dat het een lieve lust is. Het trio is op zn best als het ruimte laat op de klankband en zeer gericht een beperkt aantal tonen en texturen tegen elkaar uitspeelt. Op de momenten dat bepaalde klanken al te prominent op de voorgrond treden (of dit nu percussieve geluiden zijn dan wel digitale klankmanipulaties), dreigt het samenspel de nodige subtiliteit te verliezen waardoor verschillede passages de neiging hebben af te glijden naar al te vrijblijvende geluidsexperimenten.