«The Fall» is the third album of the Portuguese quintet Fail Better! (titled after Samuel Beckett’s mantra from his «Worstward Ho» story: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.), and as the first two albums of this quintet («Zero Sum», JACC, 2014, and «Owt», NoBusiness, 2016) was recorded live at its home base, the Salão Brazil club in Coimbra in October 2017. Fail Better! Features co-founders – trumpeter Luís Vicente, guitarist Marcelo dos Reis and double bass player José Miguel Pereira, and new members – Spanish sax player Albert Cirera (who replaced João Guimarães) and drummer-flutist Marco Franco (who replaced João Pais Filipe).
The new line-up is clearly not afraid of failures, taking risks, or experimenting with distinct free-improvisation strategies. The five pieces are credited to the five musicians and the atmosphere of «The Fall» is dense and urgent. The distorted electric guitar of dos Reis sets the tone for the nervous and tense interplay of the opening piece, «Ground Floor», where Cirera’s soprano sax extends the bowing work of Miguel Pereira and Vicente’s breaths, while Franco’s frantic drumming keeps pushing all. Vicente changes the course on the following «Rose Up» and suggests a fast and playful dance together with Franco and dos Reis that becomes even more intense when Cirera – on the tenor sax, and Miguel Pereira join in.
The centerpiece, the 14-minute «Falling Stars» take this kind of playful-conversational, free-improvised interplay to another direction and blends Don Cherry-like folk melodies with an enigmatic, minimalist drone, highlighting the exquisite extended breathing techniques of Vicente and Cirera, and the ritualist contributions of dos Reis, Miguel Pereira and Franco. «Skyfall» returns to the restless and urgent mode of the opening piece, but contrasting the expressive voices of Vicente and Cirera with the repetitive gestures of dos Reis and Miguel Pereira and the fragmented patterns of Franco. The last piece «Down Under» offers another kind of conversational interplay, that begins with a sparse but highly imaginative and lyrical dialog of Vicente and Cirera but soon all musicians contribute to this eccentric, dense but nuanced conversation.
Fail Better! is getting better and better in its adventurous journeys to unchartered, free-improvised territories.
Luís Vicente (tp), Marco Franco (dr, fl), Marcelo dos Reis (el.g), José Miguel Pereira (b), Albert Cirera (ss, ts)