July 10, 2020
(International Anthem)This largely improvised set by two US multi-instrumentalists is a sonic journey from minimalism to ambience with panglobal percussive effects
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Carlos Niño: Chicago Waves review | John Lewiss contemporary album of the month
There are certain live albums where you’d love to have been in the audience when they were recorded, witnessing the magic. However, part of the joy of this particular session – recorded at Chicago’s South Shore Cultural Center in November 2018 – is the sheer sonic confusion that you encounter while listening to it. What is this? A full orchestra? A small string ensemble? An Indo-jazz fusion band? A boffin triggering samples? It’s actually the work of just two multi-instrumentalists from Los Angeles: Miguel Atwood-Ferguson plays cascading arpeggios on a five-string electric violin that resemble the opening phrase from Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending; Carlos Niño makes highly textural percussive effects on a variety of drums and cymbals; while both trigger real-time effects and electronic drones.
The two have worked with dozens of other musicians – Atwood-Ferguson has written film music and arranged sessions for fellow Los Angelenos including Flying Lotus, Dr Dre and Thundercat over the years, while Niño is an extravagantly bearded DJ and multi-instrumentalist who has produced numerous spiritual jazz, ambient and electronic albums. This 44-minute performance is a largely improvised piece in eight linked sections – it’s minimalism with the harmonic complexity of a Romantic tone poem; it’s ambient music with the rigour of jazz. Atwood-Ferguson’s five-string violin conjures up Indian modes, English pastoralism and minimalist drones, starting high on the fingerboard and swooping down into the cello register. Niño’s percussion is equally extraordinary, a riot of bells, rattles, bird calls, gongs and rumbling timpani that take us on a panglobal sonic voyage. Every time you listen to it, different hidden joys emerge.
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