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«Conundrum Vol. 1»

Since 2019, prolific Portuguese drummer-electronics player  Pedro Melo Alves arranged a bi-monthly concert series of free improvised music that was later guested at Lisbon’s Galeria Zé Dos Bois. Alves hosted some of the most inspired and intriguing musicians with whom he had never played before for duo dialogs, Now the first collection of 13 dialogs from that series is released, with the elusive title of Conundrum Vol. 1.

Alves sees the series as a «dream of community and ego dissolution» that promises him «the glimpse of stepping out of my sphere» and offers a gift of new things on the horizon to unblock, and the harsh flavor of self-reinvention. He aimed to conceive new drum setups, electronic devices, sonic resources, dreams, and versions of himself, and, obviously, an extra awareness, and a sense of discovery and vulnerability. Each guest brought a distinct sonic universe and epiphanies that seemed impossible to combine.

Conundrum Vol. 1 is an arresting celebration of free and open minds, full of sonic surprises and wonders. Each guest brought a distinct sonic universe and set of epiphanies that seemed impossible to combine. It begins with an ambient-cinematic soundscape with fellow Portuguese accordionist João Barradas (including MIDI accordion) followed by the enigmatic and otherworldly yet highly stimulating dialog with Chinese-American vocal artist-electronics player Audrey Chen. German turntables-electronics wizard Ignaz Schick. takes Alves into imagined, sci-fi dance territories with his noisy rhythmic samples. Fellow Portuguese guitarist engages Alves in a free and risk-taking sonic experiment that searches for the extreme sonic terrains. Polish jazz pianist Marta Warelis triggers a delicate, sparse yet playful conversation that demands deep listening and great sensitivity. Argentinian cellist-electronics player Violeta Garcia experiments with a mysterious, alien drone, ornamented by Alves free pulse. South African-American harpist Jacqueline Kerrod leads Alves into a sensual dance.

The last six dialogs are all with Portuguese musicians or based in Portugal. Double bass player Carlos Barreto suggests a dark, woody dialog, resonated wisely by Alves’ electronics and free drumming. Vocalist Sara Serpa offers a seductive, playful meditation, beautifully ornamented by Alves. Sound artist Rafael Toral experiments with Alves with a sci-fi urgent and cryptic rhythmic transmission. The prepared piano of Grilo suggests a twisted version of gamelan music. Vocal artist-electronics player Gil Dionísio took Alves to a flirt with hazy hip-hop beats while Turkish vocal artist-electronics player Ece Canli concludes this collection with a full-circle return to the celestial ambient atmosphere of the opening piece but with ethereal mystery this time.

The sub-title of this series is itself through disappearance. It is Alves’ insightful lesson from such ongoing free improvising sessions that defy all expectations and trigger deep imagination. To produce meaning through spontaneous sound dialogues is to explore and combine all the multiple selves we have in us, ultimately leaving us in this zero state. This is the true essence of free and open improvised music.

Eyal Hareuveni   

Pedro Melo Alves (drums, percussion, electronics), João Barradas (accordion, MIDI accordion), Audrey Chen (voice, electronics), Ignaz Schick (turntables, sampler, electronics), Nuno Rebelo (electric guitar), Marta Warelis (piano), Violeta Garcia (cello, electronics), Jacqueline Kerrod (harp), Carlos Barreto (double bass), Sara Serpa (voice), Rafael Toral ( electronic and acoustic feedback, modified amplifier, electrode oscillator), Grilo (prepared piano), Gil Dionísio (voice, electronics), Ece Canlı (voice, electronics)