Mem1: Suspensions

Notwithstanding the 2011 release of Age of Insects, a collaborative effort with Stephen Vitiello (issued on Dragon's Eye Recordings), the last formal Mem1 recording issued by Mark and Laura Cetilia, Tetra, appeared in 2010, which the married couple released on their own Estuary Ltd. imprint. So the 2013 release of two companion Mem1 sets on the Radical Matters Editions label and a solo outing by Mark on Estuary Ltd amounts to a seeming deluge of new material from the Cetilias. As on previous recordings, the Mem1 sets blend Laura's cello playing (and electronics) with the real-time sound sculpting Mark generates using analog modular and electronics, while Mark's solo outing understandably presents a comparatively purer sound design.

Scant clarifying information accompanies the two Radical Matters recordings, but that's hardly a crippling concern when the material speaks for itself so handily. The releases present four long-form electro-acoustic tracks, three of them in the half-hour vicinity and the fourth a wee fourteen minutes by comparison. The settings give the impression of being live improvs, though whether they were laid down in the studio or in a live setting isn't clear (if the latter, all traces of crowd noise have been stripped away). Eschewing melody in the conventional sense, the Cetilias' focus is on immersive, long-form dronescaping in these four settings.

Luxurious length in this case is no minor detail as it enables the pair to develop the material patiently and organically. At the outset of a piece, the two fashion a quiet yet restlessly percolating bed of electronic activity to which the cello's bowed tones are conjoined, and thereafter allow the material to build in natural manner, with the electronic burbling intensifying and the cello tones multiplying. Other details creep in at judicious moments: muffled voices, distortion rendering their words indecipherable, emerge halfway through “Suspensions I” as the sound mass takes on an increasingly industrial and then electrical quality. In this particular setting, the omnipresent creak of the cello gives the material a ghostly, even haunted character, as it works towards a strings-heavy climax that while claustrophobic in tone is beautifully paced, too. In similar manner, “Suspensions II” breathes like a living organism, its instrument sounds rising and falling as the piece evolves through a series of mutating episodes. Once again, the activity level intensifies as it moves into its final third, with the cavernous rumble of electronics an accompaniment to the cello's groan.

Real-world noises (perhaps field recordings-derived) seep into the opening moments of “Anticipations I” before they're smothered by the sputter and crackle of electronics and the guttural see-saw of the cello. A sense of drift shadows the middle section as the duo ponders where to go next until a series of ominous cello tones imposes direction and guides the piece to a dark, unsettling close. It's a haunted quality that carries over into “Anticipations II,” which rumbles quietly with an undercurrent of modest threat for an unsettling ten minutes until a seething coda introduces a marked change in disposition. Despite the prominent role played by electronics, the duo's music exudes an elemental quality, as if it's material that having long gestated below ground is only now oozing to the earth's surface. The releases' titles are apt, too, given that the listener attends with anticipation to where the material will venture as it undertakes its long journeys and experiences some degree of time suspension during the unfolding of a half-hour setting.

Textura (2013)