Review: Blank Disc Trio + Ex You – Split

coverWhich is stronger? The desire to make sound or the desire to keep quiet? Blank Disc aren’t sure. For their side of this spina!rec split, they go back and forth between proclamations of impulse and sudden retractions of regret. Do they rebel against the silence or relish the blank of the canvas? They twitch, they yelp, they bleat. The air feels fraught with indecision, as saxophones wheeze through restricted breaths and electronics drip through the cracks in their commitment to the quiet. Guest musicians are brought in to help resolve the conflict (pianist Dušica Cajlan-Wissel, guitarist Julien Baillod), yet they fall into the very same predicament: pianos mumble as the hammer wobbles over the string, unable to proclaim their loyalty to either spotless nothing or raucous everything, while fingers fidget over the guitar in an anxious, caffeine-addled attempt to sit still. For brief stints the group let loose in a cathartic mess, and invariably these sections are followed by extended bouts of improvisatory remorse; the equivalent of someone muttering “I shouldn’t have done that…” to themselves, frantically but quietly, over and over again.

Ex You sound just as perplexed. Once again, the input of a guest (cellist Ernő Zsadányi) only makes things worse. The group seem to be struggling to resolve a conversational misunderstanding – the drones of guitars and electronics cancel eachother out to form an ugly grey murk, while drums stumble over themselves until the rhythm disappears beneath the flurry of corrective ticks. The three pieces document their futile attempts to bring everyone onto the same page, sliding between tempos to correct the conflict of speeds, laboring over certain ideas in the hope that clarity will start to emerge from prolonged exposure. There are glints of alignment in the final few minutes – guitar and cello lock onto a muffled bleep of submarine radar, sliding gradually into parallel as the loop repeats and repeats – yet it’s not long before the collaboration starts to splay again, oozing outward into a splotch of quarrel and mistake. Both sides of the split represent very different forms of disparity and collaborative failure, yet both strike a beautiful balance between intermittent success and lapses of fulfilment. A wonderful ode to the art of almost.