Luca Formentini: Tacet

Latin for “it is silent,” ‘tacet' is a musical term used to indicate that an instrument doesn't play for a long interval of time, often an entire movement (one naturally thinks of John Cage's 4'33" (1952) whose score consists of one page, with indications of three movements, each one marked “tacet”) but guitarist Luca Formentini's Tacet doesn't traffic in silence much at all, to be honest, though it does sometimes tilt more towards introverted reflection than extroverted grandstanding. Formentini's one of those virtuosi who is more intent on exploring the textural possibilities his instrument offers rather than crafting the perfect solo, and accompanying him in that pursuit are kindred explorers like trumpeter Markus Stockhausen and cellist Deborah Walker. Many of the pieces feature the guitarist alone, though the range of effects he typically deploys ensures that a given track suggests the workings of a small ensemble than a single player. “Misha” and “Layer (resonance),” for example, are both Formentini alone, but sound like two or three Frippertronics-inspired experimentalists gracefully weaving lines around one another (the effect presumably simulated by sampling and looping the guitar in real-time). With electronic drums added by Steve Jansen (of Japan fame), the moodily atmospheric “Frame” brings Tacet close to the sound of Andy Summers' underappreciated full-length The Golden Wire issued in 1989. Similarly, “The Fragile Second,” with its liquid guitar tone and hazy sustain, would fit seamlessly into Summers' album too without anyone noticing the change in personae. Tacet 's most boundary-pushing piece is probably “Skin for the Angel” where Formentini uses electric and fretless guitars and micro-noises to sculpt a slow-moving, nine-minute epic of dark ambient. Despite any restrictedness hinted at by the title, the album is wide-ranging in stylistic scope, though, at sixty-seven minutes, would have benefited from a quarter-hour of judicious pruning.

November 2007