Poor Isa is the duo of Belgian brotherly guitarists Ruben Machtelinckx and Frederik Leroux who have found each other in improvisation and in sonic explorations. Machtelinckx and Leroux collaborated before on other projects like Linus + Skarbø/Leroux (with Norwegian drummer Øyvind Skarbø) and a two solo banjos performance (when the shade is stretched, Aspen, 2017).
Poor Isa deepens Machtelinckx and Leroux’ interest in the surreal sonic palettes of banjos with woodblocks, with Leroux also playing on a flute. dissolution of the other is the sophomore album of Poor Isa, following let’s drink the sea and dance (Aspen Edities, 2019), and like all albums of this boutique label is framed in a poetic quote, this time by American painter and sculpturer Jack Whitten (1939-2018): «I sit and watch beneath my feet, the passage of time». The cover artwork on both albums is by Belgian painter Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009).
Machtelinckx and Leroux do not play the banjos in familiar ways, but in alternative tunings, with preparations and additional attributes, and create otherworldly minimalist soundscapes. These sparse soundscapes, with the distant and ritualist percussive sounds of woodblocks, are rich in silence and shadow and flirt with the familiar and spiritual, but always ask enigmatic kōans.
The album features two extended pieces. «Figures» has an untimely, harmonious atmosphere with Machtelinckx and Leroux mirroring each other’s banjo sound and blending into one sonic entity. «Drifter» focuses on a mysterious rhythmic development of the woodblocks with an ABAB structure. The A part has a dripping unpredictability, but the B part has an ongoing, pulsing sound, adding an aroma of an insistent ritual. These highly immersive and mysterious pieces invite the listener to the unique, imaginative sonic universes of Machtelinckx and Leroux.
Frederik Leroux (banjo, woodblocks, flute), Ruben Machtelinckx (banjo, woodblocks)