Already an accomplished composer, Argentinian Abel Gilbert formed Factor Burzaco as an outlet for his singular musical vision. Combining the influence of chamber music, Henry Cow, Belgian RIO, modern classical composers Ligeti, and Debussy, Gilbert is now up to the third Factor Burzaco album in seven years, and the second to be released on Italian go-to label of choice for the musically adventurous, AltrOck.
The only constant musical companion to Abel Gilbert throughout the band’s history is singer Carolina Restuccia, whose voice is never strident in the manner of Dagmar Krause, and so makes the entire Factor Burzaco experience more palatable than some of Henry Cow’s latter more dissonant works. Although Carolina’s voice is certainly gentler on the ear than Krause’s, Factor Burzaco display the same kind of experimental intent as Henry Cow, that iconic (mostly) English RIO outfit. In fact her voice moves the band closer to that other modern avant band lead by a female singer, Thinking Plague. Possibly less “rock” inclined than the Plague, and perhaps even more experimental, Factor Burzaco now present us with 3, a complex and highly entertaining journey along roads less travelled.
Abel Gilbert composed all the songs on 3 apart from Asudep Mal (with guitarist Pedro Chalkho) and Soga Func (with Chalkho and drummer Facundo Negi), and his musical die is cast from the off with the peculiarly Aranis-sounding Donde nos Habíamos Quedado (Where We Left Off), suitably enough appearing to commence in the middle of a musical conversation. The lyrics on 3, much as I can find out with the often wayward Google Translate, appear to be oblique musings on darker states of the psyche, as “so you’re going to cram fill the silence with your fears” from the opening track seems to indicate.
The complexity shifts up a gear with the labyrinthine La Vera Storia de Tristan O. (The True Story Of Tristan O.), a quirky ferret about in the Roger Trigaux-era Univers Zero cupboard, Pedro Chalkho’s guitar adding a harder edge to the modern classical deconstruct of the main tune.
Carolina restlessly intones Evasión Imposible (you won’t need a translation for that!) in a Bjork-meets Ari Up style, and here we have a slightly more recognisable song structure, but something that remains very off-kilter, as if beamed in by passing aliens. The structure is held within a very tight frame in a strange time signature, the ensemble meshing together to catch every fast-paced musical nuance; a bit of a treat for the fan of avant song writing.
The album continues in this highly individualistic and fascinating manner and it transpires that much of Pedro’s guitar playing is obviously nuanced in a similar manner to that of Francesco Zago, AltrOck’s “house guitarist” (my quotes). This is much to the fore on Arnoldturro, where in additionPedro initiates a conversation with the bass guitar by creating a rhythm by intermittently earthing his guitar lead. All very playful, it leads into a charming piece of chamber rock meets choral ensemble with the first employment of the superbly named Nonsense Ensemble. The a cappella Soga also uses the soprano, tenor and baritone combination and is the kind of “anti-choir” arrangement I last came across on Martin Archer’s equally strange and compelling Juxtavoices CD. Following this is Soga Func, a striking and sparse funk strut co-composed with the guitarist and the drummer. It is a departure from the rarefied chamber rock sonics of much of the rest of the record, but it still fits in seamlessly.
The most sparse arrangement is to be found on En Tránsito,the first part of double header with the rockier Asudep Mal. On that first part the clarinet, saxes and flute perform a low key call and response in the eeriest manner possible, the result being a spooky ambience. Pedro keeps it low key in his co-composed latter section, where contrapuntal rhythms in the manner of Crimson’s Night Watch are played out by the band as the tension slowly rises, neatly filling the spaces left by the first section. A subtle Crimsoid guitar figures introduces Inter Dicción as Carolina swoops and breathily intones around the skittering rhythm, the bass guitar of Carlos Quebrada Vásquez being particularly impressive in its dexterity. Occasionally jerked into life by some almost riffing from Pedro this is another piece of subtle contrasts.
The album ends with the longest piece of all, and at over fourteen minutes, Silicio (Silicon) is a full avant rock suite leaning towards the chamber rock style of Univers Zero. Wilfully complex, but full of space and musical intent, it is something that will need plenty of listens before a full understanding can emerge. Split into sections with occasional distant spoken word interludes as well as Carolina’s powerful but never discordant singing, this is the only song on the record without a lyric section in the entirely Spanish but lovingly reproduced booklet, a fact that only adds to its majestic mystery.
It is hard enough for an American band like Thinking Plague to get exposure, so I cannot imagine what it must be like for a band as wilful as this in a territory as remote as Argentina, where Abel Gilbert has displayed a remarkable conviction to the cause of forward thinking music over the years. The curious ending of Silicio, one that leaves a musical question mark hanging in the air, implies that there is more to come, and I for one will be waiting.
Anyone into progressive music in the proper sense cannot fail to be intrigued by this wonderfully odd yet supremely confident band, led by a master of surprises.
01. Donde Nos Habíamos Quedado (2:03)
02. La Vera Storia Di Tristan O. (6:11)
03. Evasión Imposible (3:50)
04. Arnoldturro (5:23)
05. Las (4:44)
06. En Tránsito / Asudep Mal (6:57)
07. Inter Dicción (4:53)
08. Soga (3:12)
09. Soga Func (3:20)
10. Silicio (14:13)
Total Time 53:40
Carolina Restuccia – Vocals
Facundo Negri – Drums, Percussion, Vibraphone
Pedro Chalkho – Guitars
Carlos Quebrada Vásquez – Bass
Rosa Nolly – Alto & Baritone Saxophones
Martín Proscia – Alto & Tenor Saxophones
Sergio Catalán – Flutes
Luciano Giambastiana – Clarinets
Sebastián Preit – Keyboards
Jacopo Costa – Marimba
Maricel Alvarez – Vocals on Arnoldturro
“El Nonsense Ensamble Vocal de Solistas” – Backing vocals on LAS and Soga
Record Label: AltrOck Productions
Year Of Release: 2014