Naturalismo: Sherman

Naturalismo /Sherman: Disgiunzione #5
Naturalismo: Interno

In my last post about the Hong Kong improvising guitarist Sherman Ho, I discussed how the spectre of Derek Bailey would occasionally make its presence felt in Ho’s work. Well, Sheffield’s finest free improv overlord is here again in this latest collaboration – a series of guitar duos between Sherman and the Italian noisemaker Naturalismo – specifically in its penultimate track, Sorry Derek.

Ironically – or perhaps deliberately, given the title – this is the least Bailey-like piece of the half a dozen collected here, one guitar meandering around the upper neck, sliding and bending notes while the other offers up a fuzzy, crackling commentary, its buzzy scratches flitting in out of the spaces left by its partner. It is a world away from the starkness of Bailey’s technique.

Naturalismo is one of the many aliases of Gabriele de Seta, an Italian-born Hong Kong resident who also runs the Monstres par Excès label, on which this CD-r is released. It’s mildly interesting that de Seta has chosen his Naturalismo persona for this, a moniker usually reserved for more abstract, noise-based recordings.

Naturalismo’s Interno album, released on Lips Infection last year, is a case in point. Its three long tracks are a finely constructed dialectical shuffle between noise and quiet, a series of jolts and shocks set against a bed of oppressive hums like some kind of malfunctioning steampunk Death Star. It’s pretty darned good.

Anyway, Naturalismo is on guitar here (as well as ‘objects’), and he’s a fine foil to Sherman’s broken chords, mixing a range of extended techniques with more conventional playing. The album has a homespun quality, and the mood is relaxed. Neither musician seems too worried about any kind of ground rules, happy to stretch out and pluck, strum, bang, pick and scrape as their instincts demand.

You get a real sense of this on this opening pair of tracks. Opener Unprepared Guitars is a disconnected collage of buzzes and hums, with the odd bass note and feedback swoop to punctuate the scuzz. A single, repeated phrase – just two or three notes – is enough to unify things, keeping the track flowing into the zonked-out jam of the next tune, Lazy Breakfast.

On this, perfectly titled, piece the fuzz is still tentative, as if unable to manage more than grizzly clusters of two or three notes. The other guitar is bright and hazy, with that behind-the-bridge ‘dripping silver’ sound so prevalent on early Sonic Youth records. Towards the end of the piece a wobbly, slow wah effect appears. The overall effect is like sitting in a kitchen, hung-over, with the sun streaming in through the window.

For me, though, the highlight of the record is Renfrew Road with an astonishing sense of calm and stillness. At its heart is a glistening guitar line that creeps out then curls back in on itself, moving through a series of chords and motifs, unhurried and enigmatic. Subtle flourishes and stabs of colour drift in from the second guitar, but never detract from the mantra at the centre. It is a meditative delight.

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Disgiunzione #5 will hopefully be available soon from the Monstres par Excès website.

Naturalismo’s Interno is available from Lips Infection.

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