Resting in a Fold of the Fog compiles recordings of two pieces of music by Michael Pisaro, performed in Reims by the composer on laptop and Dedalus Ensemble members Didier Aschour on electric guitar and Stéphane Garin on percussion. Hearing Metal 4 (Birds in Space) is part of a series of works that, according to Pisaro, “attempt to enter into the space of one or more instruments, and then to expand that space, to hear an inner geography of the range of sounds chosen”. This is accompanied by a newer composition called Grounded Cloud, continuing the references to fog, mist, and cloud that have appeared in much of Pisaro’s recent music.
Fog first. Grounded Cloud begins with silence; after a while, small taps and thumps begin to be heard. A quiet, high-pitched tone sounds, followed by an answering low-pitched one. More intermittent taps and tones. Here audibility is reduced to a minimum, occasional shapes poking out of the silence. At the same time, silence is what is audible, in the same way that fog both hides a landscape and becomes what it hides. Ringing, shifting, humming, plinking, rustling. Gradually the sounds get louder, more present, though not really going much further than mezzo forte. A sweeping noise, and a soft buzzing. I get the impression that this piece is perhaps difficult to play, with the challenge lying in getting the right balance between revealing and hiding, but here the trio manage it beautifully.
The first section of Hearing Metal 4 (Birds in Space) features clouds of ringing, high-pitched metallic tones, separated by silence. Each cloud has similar timbres but different pitches, harmonies, and density. In the next section, single ringing notes are performed in unison, and allowed to die away before the next one sounds; following this, glinting chords are held while guitar and percussion occasionally interject. The striking thing about this piece is the enchanting strangeness of its ringing, piercing sounds, their unhurried pacing and development only adding to their otherworldliness. In the same way that ripples on a pond extend much further than the object that initially falls into the water, these timbres slowly unfold from the inside.
These two contrasting pieces make for a thoughtful, intriguing, and yes, restful listen: they sit like mist or like birdsong in the air of the room.
Nathan Thomas l Fluid Radio l April 2017
The popularity of Michael Pisaro is ongoing; the composer and guitarist now averages an impressive four releases a year, not all on Editions Wandelweiser, as was once the case, but across a variety of labels including his own Gravity Wave, and Erstwhile. Potlatch is a recent addition to the fold; this release is the second on the label to feature music composed by Michel Pisaro, following 2015's Melody, Silence (For Solo Guitar) by Chilean guitarist Cristián Alvear.
Resting in a Fold of the Fog also joins a select subset of Pisaro releases in that it features him as performer as well as composer. It was recorded over two days in May 2016, at Césaré (Centre National de Création Musicale), Reims, France, by the trio of Pisaro on laptop rather than guitar, Didier Aschour on electric guitar and Stéphane Garin on percussion. The music consists of two contrasting compositions, the 20-minute Grounded Cloud, inspired by a poem from Chinese-born poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, which was premiered in Los Angeles in November 2015, and the previously unreleased 25-minute Hearing Metal 4 (Bird in Space), composed in 2010-11, the last of Pisaro's Hearing Metal series. As is typical of Pisaro compositions, and albums too, both pieces carry titles which conjure up visual images appropriate to the music.
The instrumentation on Grounded Cloud consists of electronic sounds—"cloud like" collections of filtered noise—from Pisaro's laptop, amplified bass drum with rice vibrating on the surface, and sparing use of electric guitar. With instrumental sounds punctuated by occasional silences, the music creates an eerie atmosphere that fits its title (and the album's), and it is not difficult to imagine it accompanying footage of low drifting broken cloud. As so often with Pisaro compositions, it makes compelling listening and cries out to be heard again as soon as it ends.
For those familiar with past Hearing Metal releases—the most recent being Hearing Metal 3 (Gravity Wave, 2011) by the duo of Pisaro and Greg Stuart—the good news is that Hearing Metal 4 (Bird in Space) has the characteristic strengths of its predecessors and feels entirely compatible with their sounds and moods. Their pulsing metallic tones open the new piece, again fitting its title perfectly. Lacking the silences of Grounded Cloud,' the piece's unworldly sounds are compelling enough to be enthralling and mesmerizing for the whole of its 25-minute duration—in fact, the longer it goes on, the better it sounds. Taken as a whole, this album is a triumph for all concerned.
John Eyles l All About Jazz l March 2017
Much of composer Michael Pisaro’s work is driven by the desire to explore the often complex ramifications of an ostensibly simple, fundamental idea. It isn’t unusual for him to take as his starting point the act of listening, whether to environmental sounds or to the properties of the material resources—sometimes deceptively basic—that his compositions call for. And focused listening does seem to be the key to the reception of the two long pieces collected on Resting in a Fold of the Fog.
Grounded Cloud (2015-2016) is a work for electric guitar, electronics and amplified bass drum. The latter instrument, played by the Dedalus Ensemble’s Stéphane Garin, gives the performance a distinctive, rain-like sound by having been prepared with grains of rice arranged to vibrate on its surface. Over its twenty-minute length the piece traces a long-period, undulating dynamic of accumulation and dispersal helped along by noise from Pisaro’s electronics and the electric guitar of Didier Aschour, also of the Dedalus Ensemble. (Although Pisaro played electric guitar on the piece’s premiere performance in November 2015, here he is on laptop.)
Hearing Metal 4 (2010-2011) for bowed glockenspiel, electric guitar and laptop, is the fourth in a series of compositions centered on the sonic properties of a specified metal percussion instrument. Originating with a piece for sixty-inch tam-tam, with this installment the series moves to a much smaller and higher-pitched instrument. As with many of Pisaro’s compositions, the focus of Hearing Metal 4 is on making explicit the multiplicity of sounds implicit in a single material or sonic gesture. The pitch material is accordingly simple: An ascending A major scale. The scale is arranged as a series of events separated by silences; with each succeeding tone the glockenspiel’s thin, almost transparent sound shimmers when intersected by the guitar and electronics. When listened to closely this piece, like the previous one, yields a sometimes surprising, albeit restrained, sensuality.
Daniel Barbiero l Avant Music News l February 2017