Review: Paulo Chagas + Wilhelm Matthies – Lark [markings]

Initially I felt somewhat naïve for being absolutely clueless as to what a “Mosesa 2” actually was; as it turns out, it’s not too surprising that I was unfamiliar with this unusual instrument existing in an edition of one. The Mosesa 2 appears to comprise of two empty washing up bottles, a wooden pole, one string and the bottom half of a camera tripod, designed to be bowed so that it emits an ugly, visceral groan and scrape – sometimes resembling the slow cranking of some rusty, creaky machine gears, sometimes resembling a trash can lid being kicked recklessly across the room, sometimes resembling a gigantic metal door being swung on its squealing, unoiled hinge.

For Lark [markings], Wilhelm Matthies’ unique instrument is placed in the company of Paulo Chagas’ expressive and temperamental woodwind playing, which flits erratically between the smoothest of virtuoso trills to some rather vulgar, murderous screams. Together they tackle two graphic scores – one drawn by Matthies, the other by Chagas – plucking all sorts of signifiers of mood, duration and dynamic out of the squiggles and shapes, with two drastically different interpretations on two vastly contrasting instruments pitted together in both a conversational and argumentative simultaneity.

Much of the music moves in deep exhalations, arriving in swoops and surges that recede into silence to re-capture breath and eventually emerge. This is no doubt derived from the generous gaps of white space that isolates each shape, creating a beautiful dynamic that sees both players evaluate and approach each squiggle in turn – the album is dotted with patches of agonising quiet, during which one can almost hear Chagas and Matthies quickly formulate their interpretation before bringing it into beautiful sonic materialisation. Midway through his album description on Bandcamp, Matthies claims that “listening to a recording is like reading and interpreting a score. We look at the waveforms on our DAW screens, we hear it in our headphones, we make decisions on how to respond.” Such a description hauls the listener into the process of subjective interpretation, forming their perception of Lark [markings] with the same impulsive unwrapping of significance that births the audio itself.