Paris Transatlantic review by Clifford Allen

Carlos Zíngaro / Wilbert De Joode / Dominique Regef – SPECTRUM (CF 110)
Spectrum is the work of a pan-European string trio that brings together Portuguese violinist Carlos Zíngaro, Dutch bassist Wilbert De Joode and French hurdy-gurdy player Dominique Regef. They take a different approach from similarly constituted groups like the String Trio of New York or the Kent Carter String Trio: no composed pieces or programmatic music, no bagatelles or dance pieces here – this is unruly, rough-and-tumble free music. Another thing that sets the group apart is the use of the hurdy-gurdy, a Renaissance wheel violin which allows the player to accompany his melodies with a constant drone, much like a bagpipe. Early-music instruments rarely make their way into contemporary music, much less free improvisation, so Spectrum’s unique palette is something of a treat for weird bowed-instrument loyalists.
The set begins with Zíngaro and de Joode’s broad arco sashays, bolstered underneath by Regef’s slight scrabble. These movements soon become tighter, detailed, less tonal, and the space occupied ever narrower through ponticello, massive bass clusters, and peals of metallic hurdy-gurdy scrape. Then, quickly and almost imperceptibly, the trio recedes into darting, hushed sounds and terse plucks in an array of sparse gestures and solid blocks. The final third of “Spectra 01” offers one of those “how did they get here” moments, Regef finding a nasty little low phrase to repeat and anchor a swarming line, subsuming de Joode’s throaty pizzicato and teasing scuttled mimicry from Zíngaro’s extended ballets before a unison hum closes it out. The second improvisation begins with Regef snipping away at the East European-flavoured violin-bass interplay, before a more resolute drone emerges to act as a launching pad for Zíngaro’s stark song. Nearly a half-hour in length, “Spectra 02” offers a peek at the cranked facility of Regef’s handiwork on an instrument that may seem almost primitive; his contributions flit within a narrow range, and are fleshed out by subtle sonic heaves. Spectrum is nasty, vicious and rhapsodic music, altogether an extraordinary addition to the improvised string-music pantheon.

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