Trumpeter Susana Santos Silva is having a moment of late, as it seems like she has new albums being released every month. All of these are worthwhile if not excellent. This pairing with the legendary guitarist Fred Frith was unexpected but makes sense. Both are explorers who focus on open-ended improv and in doing so make use of extended techniques. Thus, despite generational, cultural, and geographic divides, Santos Silva and Frith have much in common.
Laying Demons to Rest is a single continuous track recorded at 2021’s Festival Météo in France. For large parts of it, Santos Silva seemingly takes the lead, loosing short bursts of melody. Frith changes up his palette non-stop, moving from distorted to clean notes, as well as from playing his guitar in a somewhat typical fashion to using it to create textures and percussion. He even produces keyboard-like chords, though probably through processing rather than switching instruments.
But where this duo shines the most are the passages in which they abandon all conventional notions of music and instead generate sounds. Their dialogs gently push one another not to do more or less, but to create. To appropriate a term, Santos Silva employs “squiggles and hisses” as well as staccato blasts, airy blowing, and warbling drones. In contrast, Frith takes on a more rhythmic role, providing percussive elements, scraping, repeating chords, and looped structures. With the use of effects, Frith’s sounds are quite varied even when he is clearly staking out a supporting role.
Whether intentional or not, it is exquisite to hear when Santos Silva and Frith briefly come together on a short motif before heading once again in separate directions. The result is a strangely cohesive yet aleatoric offering, one that easily stands up to multiple listens.
Laying Demons to Rest will be released on January 20 by RogueArt.