Few things get my blood flowing like seeing and/or hearing a mind-bending concept not just come to life, but surpass all reasonable expectations. Cecilia Lopez’s incredible piece, Red (DB), looks and sounds incredible on paper, but watching the video of the performance and listening to these sonic tapestries, it becomes one of the most captivating pieces of music I’ve heard in the past year and is a showcase for Lopez’s indelible vision.
For this performance, large woven nets were hung from the ceiling and filled with different instruments – drums and double basses – to create massive, hanging resonators that interacted with the live sounds to produce complex feedback and resonance in the space. On the recordings, there’s a moving thrum to be heard that makes the piece come to life even more.
Synthesizers, double bass, and drums create their own sonic web, scratching and hollering through imaginary walls as the world runs spirals in the empty air. Cecilia Lopez is joined by Brandon Lopez on double bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums, and as a trio they move as one. Bass drones stretch like arms open for an embrace, but the tonal palette is filled with grit and mud, scraping off rust while a sphere of tension grows. Brandon Lopez has a bottomless bag of techniques to draw from. At one point, he creates this fast-paced, almost-aqueous sequences by bouncing the back of his bow over the strings. His range and skill is unparalleled.
Cleaver, for his part, lays down the backbone when called upon, pushing the rhythm ahead when needed and adding captivating aural textures at the same time. His timing is flawless and he knows exactly the right touch and volume to use at any given moment. This ability to add his own stamp on things shouldn’t go unnoticed. Cleaver is one of the most underappreciated drummers alive.
Red (DB) is heady and on paper it seems as though the conceptual framework will be impossible to translate into something listenable. That’s never the case, though. Throughout it’s 49 minutes, Red (DB) is captivating. Veering between emotionally-wrenching expanses of vacant synths and guttural bass to angular, rhythmic grooves, there’s an infinite array of sounds to get lost in and explore. When the massive net filled with drums is pushed into motion, they hiss and vibrate, acting as though they’ll disintegrate at any moment. These moments of tension and excitement are laced throughout Red (DB) and add to impact of this incredible work. Cecilia Lopez certainly has my attention.
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