Andres Prado Trio/ Deathprod and Biosphere/ Joker Nies at the 2014 Tape to Zero Festival, Oslo

Andres Prado Trio

Andres Prado Trio/ Deathprod and Biosphere/ Joker Nies
(Second night of Tape to Zero Festival. Nasjonaljazzscene Oslo. 4th April 2014. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Peruvian music normally makes one think of the sounds of instruments specific to that country, such as the (lute-like) charango, the cajon drum, and (please, no, I'll do whatever you ask...) the pan-pipes. But, as elsewhere in Latin America, there is a also a guitar tradition, of whom the most significant figure is Manuelcha Prado (born 1955).

The central set of the second night of the Tape to Zero Festival in Oslo marked the debut performance of a new trio led by Peruvian nylon-string guitarist Andres Prado (born 1971, and no relation to his illustrious elder) plus two Norwegians: melodic, fluent, precise bassist Terje Gewelt and sensitive, creative drummer Terje Evensen, the latter known mainly for his work in electronic music, but on this occasion playing acoustically.

Their set was a marvellous exercise in restraint, an adventure on the borders of silence. Evensen did the whole set on brushes, supporting Prado's nylon string guitar, a very gentle instrument. Sometimes Prado muffles the strings either partly - to give subtone, or fully - to strike them softly as quiet percussion. For a first outing, the unanimity, the quality, the mutual listening going on in this group were remarkable.

I found myself listening out for Prado's completely engaging, freely extemporized interludes between the tunes. It is how I imagined the Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore (1885-1944) must have played. Barrios' compositions have now become staples of the repertoire of many a classical guitarist. But in that context they are now frozen. How much better to hear a guitarist who can guide you gently you on a fresh journey each time.

The headline act, the final slot of this year's fourth, two-day festival was a newly commissioned work from Helge Sten (aka Deathprod) and Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere). The room was full, they were given a vociferous reception at the end: I was surprised that they didn't actually return to the stage to acknowledge it. This encounter between two of the leading practitioners of the art of ambient electronics, sitting facing each other at laptops presented melancholic repeated patterns. Listeners is invited to suspend their sense of time, to enjoy it like a virtually static movie scene. The two had previously worked on a project in 2005 called Nordheim Transformed, and this reunion was - I was told - a rare occurrence.

The first act of the triple bill was Joker Nies, a specialist in circuit-bending from Cologne. Of the three electronics performances, Nies was the one who sought the most immediate interaction both with his equipment and with the audience, partly as entertainer, with a trick-box of unusual sounds. Cologne, with its heritage of figures such as Maurizio Kagel and Karlheinz Stockhausen, has been an important city for contemporary composition and for the development of electronic music. In that panoply, Joker Nies has established a specialist niche for himself, which in the end has to be assessed on its own terms.

Tape to Zero is the work of two producers who dare to think differently. The programming was fascinating in its contrasts and in its innovativeness. It was also right for the venue. This was not a programme in which everyone was ever going to enjoy everything. My conclusion is that both sPacemoNkey and the Andres Prado trio, who were given the opportunity to perform early, formative gigs at this festival, should be heard in bigger contexts by wider international audiences.

First night review./ Sebastian's travel to a sunny Oslo was assisted by the Norwegian Embassy in London.

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