Artists: Sergio Castelletto & Andrea Cervesato
Title: Over Your Ruin
Keywords: Free Jazz
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
This release, in a nutshell: a 13 minute and 40 second opus of low fidelity free jazz. Free jazz is something difficult to be on the fence about… you either love it or you don’t get it. It’s all a matter of perspective, really. It’s unfair too, I think, how so much great music gets handwaved away as being “pretentious”. Free jazz, or really all jazz gets that treatment a lot more I’d say than any other genre. Understanding free jazz can be difficult for many people, it’s about as far from populist as music can get. My perspective on it, when I first started hearing this sort of thing, was as an extension of automatic music or noise experimentation. In a way, calling free jazz “pretentious” is like calling automatic writing “pretentious”. It doesn’t really mean anything. If you’ve ever doodled aimlessly, you’ve engaged in free drawing. If you’ve ever sat down and tried to write something automatically, letting words, symbols, lines slip through the fingertips without paying mind to what and why, even though you essentially understand how to properly form a sentence, give attention to how to properly flesh out an introduction, paragraph and conclusion in essay format, etc. then you’ve basically written automatically, you could call that free writing. Free jazz is engaged in a similar process, the attempt to break down the familiar, orderly structures of “proper” musical expression (as the musicians are more often than not “properly” trained) in order to get at… something laying beyond the narrow scope of legitimacy that is upheld by classicists, trainers, etc. In the medium of music, as is so in the medium of writing, a lot of interesting things can be stumbled upon in this matter. There’s also a current of glossolalia in this method… in the religious paradigm, glossolalia has long been considered as speaking in the “pure” tongue, the language of god, in which expression has become freed, detached from human / recognizable structure or form but – importantly – a connection has been made to the subconscious, the voice given over to tumultuous and abstract expressions of inner feeling devoid of rationality. The language spoken before the fall of the tower at Babel. Free expression is thoroughly unpretentious, is my opinion…
… but, this is just from an expressionist perspective. The true purpose of such works, if I may even be allowed to say there is one, is to get at something tangible underneath all the learnt modes, something that connects all of us. The human brain, responsible for our abilities to write, play music, form recognizable language patterns… a thin veneer of a membrane surrounding the far larger mammalian and reptilian brains… is treated by the artist as a vestige by which the art is created only automatically in order to form expressions of something more primordial, something shared collectively by all. The automatic arts require unlearning, freeing the art from mind and analysis that might bring the art to ruin before it can be created. Of course, appreciating free jazz as a listener almost does require training, learning. I received instruction in this method of appreciation due probably most to my compulsive obsession with early industrial artists. While intently listening to Throbbing Gristle records, for the most part you find it is noise. The artists involved were working in a very automatic manner. The pleasure in such works, however, are in finding those golden moments that shine through in certain sections, in which everything seemed to work if for only a moment, and the feeling you get when you hear it emerge out of the murk… sometimes it is a feeling beyond words, an inexpressible emotion that you could have likely remained ignorant of if you hadn’t exposed yourself to these sort of works. A perfect example I used to have of this sort of thing in action was a live video of Smegma performing. It was hard to pinpoint precisely when the wall of sound began to make some kind of sense, or precisely when you began to feel connected to it, but it was unmistakeable once you heard it…
… but, what does all this mean? Probably nothing of too much importance. My review of this will be difficult, as the method I employ while listening to things of this nature is often to sit and listen for moments that sound inspired like this.
Anyway, ‘Over Your Ruin’ begins with what sound like a random assortment of piano chords that are very soon joined by saxophone, probably tenor by the sound of it. The speed of the “arrangements” intensifies. The piano rushes up the octaves at one point. From 2:01 – 2:23 are some nice sounding moments, a melodic compatibility between the piano and sax has been attained. Though highly erratic and abstract, there’s a sort of frustrated darkness to this that comes across for awhile… particularly from 4:50 – 5:35 during which it becomes like a barrage. At 6:00/6:01, somebody shouts something. A little later, the piano continues to feel dark while Sergio’s sax begins to feel more like it’s become lighter, more playful. Approaching the 7:00 mark and for a little after, this reverses. Suddenly the piano is playing high octave chords and the sax grows dark and melodramatic. Here, I begin to notice a drone in the back. The pianos flutter… the tone of the piano, thought I’d mention, has had a very weird sound on this record. Almost like saloon style, honky tonk. The piano is performing stabs, it’s highly severed in character. The music grows more contemplative, almost like some sort of ambient drone, the piano is a mantra, repetitive and rhythmic. There are some really nice melodic moments established between the instruments. The piano rains while the saxophone moans. The recording ends dark and brooding, without reproach.
It’s not going to replace any of your Miles Davis or John Coltrane records, but it might not be a bad introduction to free jazz if you’re so inclined to start exposing yourself to something like that. You can download it here: