«Pliable» is the second album of the pan-European quartet In Layers (you can read the review of their first record HERE) – Portuguese guitarist Marcelo Dos Reis and trumpeter Luís Vicente, Icelandic pianist Kristján Martinsson and Dutch drummer Onno Govaert. «Pliable», like the self-titled debut album (FMR, 2016), was recorded live, this time at Salão Brazil in Coimbra – the hometown of Dos Reis, in May 2018.
The six pieces are credited to the four musicians. The title of the album captures well the atmosphere of these fast-shifting, free-improvised, and free-associative pieces. In Layers like to develop its music in a slow-cooking manner, patiently building a healthy tension, and gravitating almost methodically from a sparse interplay that allows timbral explorations and solo excursions into an urgent and dense interplay. The quartet performance is in top form, playing an inspired set as a close and mature working band.
The opening «Supple» affirms its improvisation strategy. Vicente suggests a series of melodic veins, Dos Reis punctuates his melodic stream with spiky, electric lines while Martinsson and Govaert add fragmented gestures to the interplay until all collide. The following «Malleable» builds on that kind of tense, confronted interplay, and highlights the tension between the dissonant, thorny gesture of Dos Reis to the angular, machine-gun-like Vicente. Martinsson introduces «The Whippy» but soon it shifts into a series of heated but playful duels between Martinsson and Dos Reis, later between Vicente and Govaert, and then the whole quartet intensifies this fierce improvisation.
«Elastic» offers a mysterious, reserved atmosphere, stressing the imaginative extended breathing techniques of Vicente, and minimalist implied comments of Dos Reis, Martinsson and Govaert. «Ductile» deepens this atmosphere with a quiet and playful conversation of Martinsson and Govaert, later Dos Reis and Vicente enrich and color this rhythmic interplay with intense, poetic contributions. The last, title-piece, brings a poetic yet distorted version of the angular, call-and-answer West African music, played only by Dos Reis and Govaert, and emphasizing, again, the wide sonic horizons of In Layers.
Marcelo Dos Reis (g), Onno Govaert (dr), Kristján Martinsson (p), Luís Vicente (tp)