Andrea Massaria – New Needs Need New Techniques
(Leo Records CD LR 896. Album review by Fiona Mactaggart)
Trieste-based guitarist Andrea Massaria (b.1965) is still relatively little known in the UK, whereas across mainland Europe and in Italy in particular he is an established figure. He has professorships at the conservatoires of Venice and Adria. He is a determined experimenter who inhabits the space where improvised music and jazz have firmly clasped hands with noise and electronica before setting their compass for uncharted territories.
New Needs Need New Techniques is Massaria’s first solo album. He has either led or co-led more than 20 albums to date, over the years performing alongside numerous jazz Names especially those in the area of free improvisation: Evan Parker, Giancarlo Schiaffini and Paul Lytton…
He has said: “Improvisation is a leap in the dark, in the unknown and we cannot know which part of us will emerge from the dark as soon as we start playing even more so when we play solo…”
This quote from the musician, taken with the album title which is a quote from the artist Jackson Pollock, alert us to the fact that Andrea Massaria is a deep-thinking improvising guitarist who continues to swim in deep waters. Indeed, as he did some years ago with his musical responses to the spirit and essential feel of Frank Zappa’s oeuvre, Massaria now takes the artworks of three artists as inspirations for his improvisations, and abbreviates their surnames in his track titles to two letters, in the style of Italian provinces: Pollock (PO), Martin Rothko (RO) and Robert Rauschenberg (RA). The results are a masterclass in the timbral transformation that can be achieved with an electric guitar, some electronics and a what sounds like a collection of household utensils.
The album consists of nine tracks, three for each artist, all of which sound largely, perhaps completely improvised. Sometimes there are obvious links with an artist such as in the second track, RA3, in which overlapping words about Art declaimed by singer and flautist Francesco Forges evoke the visual overlapping in much of Rauschenberg’s art. At other times it is less obvious (to this close listener at least) whether there are any specific references. But no matter, in Massaria’s work there is plenty to think about otherwise.
But this is not ‘easy’ music. A single listen certainly not enough – the real satisfaction comes from repeated listens. Extended technique barely covers what Massaria extracts from his instrument, the original, often slight guitar phrases are subsumed into the electronic manipulations which take the music to the very edge of what is normally achieved with guitar + electronics. All tracks hold the attention, no mean feat for a solo album.
Four tracks stood out for me:
In PO2, the opening medium-low frequencies and guitar meanderings juxtapose with interesting and unsettling insectoid stridulation. More calming, at least initially, is RA1, with its sparse sounds evoking Buddhist bells and Japanese wood blocks, the track becoming decidedly less prayerful as it unfolds. RO3 by contrast has a particularly rich and polytonal sound with layers of textured electronics and a deeply peaceful final dissolution. The last track, RO1, enters with a low frequency drone, layers of rumbles augmenting the stately and forbidding feel before coming to the end with a jolt.
This album might not be considered especially beautiful in the conventional sense, but if the listener enjoys questing that has both richness and subtly and a fearlessness that strives to reach beyond present-day musical frontiers, then this might just be the album for you.
One final thought: Café OTO, please find a space in your schedule for Andrea Massaria!
Fiona Mactaggart lives in Edinburgh and writes about music on Scottishjazzspace.co.uk
LINKS: Andrea Massaria’s website
Categories: Album review