By John Sharpe
The drone plays an important role in musics around the world, from south Indian classical to the pibroch piping of Scotland and the didgeridoo of Australia, to name just a few examples. Such minimalist leanings where small modulations in clusters of pure tone become the main feature also appear especially suited to experimental trumpeters such as Greg Kelley, Peter Evans and Nate Wooley. On the evidence of A Brighter Side Of Darkness, they are also very much a part of the armory of Portuguese trumpeter Luis Vicente, who teams up with Catalan drummer and percussionist Vasco Trilla on three tracks recorded in a Barcelona studio.
The pair prove dedicated to a shared aesthetic which values noise and sound at least as much as rhythm and harmony. Both possess a huge capacity for timbral variation, which they deploy in a continuous interaction, moving forward through slow shifts in density and subtle changes in angle of attack. On “Untold Stories,” Vicente exposes a variety of expression from mumbling through his mouthpiece to kissy smacks, hisses like a boiling kettle and gusty exhalations, while Trilla edges from gradually increasing resonance to tappy metallic percussion. At one point he ticks like a clock adding a sense of time to the otherwise timeless trance-like feel. And time is one thing they do take in these leisurely joint inventions.
The piece continues with Vicente’s mournful reveille, as he tips his hat to the sort of muted lyricism which is often a key trait of his work in other settings, such as Chamber 4 (FMR, 2015) and For Sale (Clean Feed, 2015). Trilla, however, undercuts any sentiment with a passage which recalls a trolley trundling around an empty and windswept supermarket car park. They build up to a cascade of clipped notes and rumbling percussion which hints at a jazzier narrative, before the cut ends with chimes and a recurrence of the metronomic ticking, which makes a satisfying ending by echoing what’s gone before.
The nearest Trilla gets to sustained cadence comes on “To Angels And Demons” when his regular placement of fragmented accents inspires Vicente to his most linear story-telling of the set. Bowed cymbals and trumpet breath and slobber begin the final “Where You Belong,” where yet more drone dynamics predominate. To the writer of the liners, the music suggests transcendence. For others it will depend on their outlook, but without doubt the album will reward those who listen with open ears and an open mind.