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Tinoco’s ‘Archipelago’ Odradek CD applauded by Music Web International

Luís Tinoco’s ‘Archipelago’ CD, on ODRADEK ODRCD398  has received an excellent review in Music Web International.  The reviewer Glyn Pursglove reminds us that Tinoco has established himself as one of Portugal’s leading contemporary composers, has worked intermittently with the Drumming Group de Percussão over a number of years and that the disc marks the percussion ensemble’s 20th anniversary in 2019, as well as a milestone birthday for Tinoco himself!  

Three of the works on this disc, Steel Factory, Zoom in – Zoom Out and Genetically Modified Fados, were commissioned by the Drumming Group de Percussão

Pursglove writes: 'Short Cuts (for percussion quartet) forms a witty and mildly hypnotic opening to the disc.'  He compares this version for two vibraphones and marimbas (Short Cuts F) to the original version Short Cuts, which was written for the Apollo Saxophone Quartet: ‘Compared to the original, there is a little less timbral variety in this version, but the complex rhythmic patterns emerge yet more clearly. An interesting and entertaining piece.’    

The reviewer moves on to Mind the Gap, performed by André Dias on the solo marimba, and to its four short movements ‘Keep Left’, ‘Next Train Approaching’, ‘Currently Out of Order’ and ‘Keep Right’, a work which must have evolved at the time of Tinoco’s postgraduate student days in London.  Tinoco writes in his programme note: “Mind the Gap is a piece about London […] observing people who have been conditioned to obey traffic lights or signs […] ideally we should all be able to keep walking freely and continuously – as opposed to a stop-walk-stop motion – and, if possible, pick a few apples from trees on our way”.  Pursglove refers to Tinoco’s wit, to the player in ‘Keep Left’ being forced to use only the left side of the instrument, and vice versa in ‘Keep Right’.  ‘In ‘Currently Out of Order’ busy patterns of sound are interrupted as the train, it seems, stops for technical reasons.’ 

He explains how Tinoco created Genetically Modified Fados.  It comprises a set of three pieces – ‘Your Eyes’, ‘Come Back’ and ‘Camelias’ and ‘in each case Tinoco prepared a tape using excerpts from the work of important earlier singers of fado as preserved in the sound archive of the Museu do Fado in Lisbon’. 

The reviewer relates how Zoom in – Zoom out, for vibraphone, two marimbas and two bass drums, was written as part of a project, Deconstructing the Bossa, created by Drumming Group de Percussão.  He says: ‘This has the intelligence and, in the serious sense of the word, the wit, that one learns to expect from most of Tinoco’s music.’ 

Of Ends Meet, described by the composer as ‘structured in four movements in a series of circles that share material between them’, the reviewer writes: ‘The first movement (Tempo giusto, quasi mecanico) has some insistent rhythms; at times the patterning might almost be described as minimalist. But towards the close of the movement the conversation between the strings and the marimba is very far from being mecanico. The second and third movements of Ends Meet are everything that their titles/markings promise (I. Libero e delicato; II. Libero e tranquillo) and are both delightful, their delicacy and tranquility rich in emotional possibilities. Both have, to a degree, the feeling of a miniature concerto for marimba and string quartet. After these two ‘slow’ movements, the last movement (Vivo) has far more obvious energy, dominated by the marimba, and completing an attractive and well-made work full of contrasts amongst its four movements and full of subtle instrumental combinations and intriguing timbres.’

Archipelago, for vibraphone and 8 tuned wah-wah tubes, the most recently written work on the disc and dedicated to the marimba player Miquel Bernat, receives a significant mention: ‘Archipelago is an evocative work, with a considerable sense of space, a space that sometimes sounds ‘haunted’ by the wah-wah tube(s). Much of the piece has a spacious and bright fluidity (for me, suggestive of an expanse of sea) with, at intervals, what Tinoco describes as “small musical islands which present us with a diverse set of timbres and colours, produced using different types of mallet, double-bass bows, or the hands of the musicians”. The whole has a suggestive poetry of a kind one doesn’t often encounter in works written for percussion ensemble. This is the piece to which I have returned with the greatest frequency in listening to this CD. It has a remarkable and unusual beauty.’ 

Finally, the reviewer refers to the ‘otherworldy’ sounds of Steel Factory, for steel drum ensemble.  Again, he is full of respect for Tinoco’s means of expression: ‘Not for the first time in discussing the music on this disc I find myself having recourse to the word ‘poetry’, as I try to communicate the way in which the nature of Tinoco’s writing (and the skills of the Drumming Group de Percussão) create a language of energy and emotion, of rhythm, suggestion and echo, which speaks to the senses and the unconscious more than to the faculty of reason. Another absorbing and rewarding work.’ 

The reviewer concludes with much admiration for Tinoco’s skill in writing for percussion and for the whole recording: ‘Over the years I have met more than a few people who are all too ready to dismiss (often unheard) music written for percussion ensemble as, of necessity, a crude matter of ‘banging and clattering’. Here, though, throughout Archipelago is work of which the most striking qualities are subtlety, precision and poetry.’

The complete review may be read at Music Web International.

(30 Oct 2020)

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