Signal to Noise review by Jason Bivins

Luís Lopes / Adam Lane / Igal Foni – What is When (CF 146)
Portuguese guitarist Luís Lopes came to some listeners’ attention on last year’s Humanization Quartet release. With a highly quirky style­ – small squiggly lines, elastic phrasing beyond or behind bar lines, and an occasional mischievous noisiness – he struck me right away as an original. This powerful trio date confirms that and then some. He’s got a Blood Ulmer thing happening in a big way, specifically the Blood Ulmer of Revealing, as he cuts against the fertile counterlines of bassist Adam Lane and drummer Igal Foni. But he remains very much his own man, and I love his idiosyncrasies, especially his weird habit of doing little rubbery spasms, like his guitar is spring-loaded. I hear more attention to dynamics on this release, as on the twitchy “Evolution Motive” and the rousing “Spontaneous Combustion.” There’s also considerable sonic range, as when Foni and Lopes trade instruments on the brief, computery-sounding hiccup “Eufoni” before the trio roars into the distorted majesty of “the Siege.” More of this with tiny noises from tiny toys on “Street Clown Girl,” which lurches forward, as Lopes moves from delicate pick-taps near the pickups to spidery lateral movements. There’s also some serious soulfulness, and I attribute a lot of this to Lane, whose playing on “Melodic 8” recalls the great Fred Hopkins, and who is key to the resolute ballad “Cerejeiras,” where the dark clouds from his distinctive and exquisitely controlled arco set the table wonderfully. Foni is a fantastic, varying timbre as often as he does tempo, a trait that works well with Lopes, whose furtive gestures sometimes avoid pulse; elsewhere, as on the exultant reading of Lane’s “ChiChi Rides The Tiger,” the drummer digs in energetically.

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