released April 20, 2016
Musicians create magic. They study their incantations and know what materials must be used and how the spirits are to be invoked. Ricardo Arias (a perfect surname for a musician) is the premier balloonist to expand that aural universe in the great name of free improvisation.
The first time I saw Arias perform, I felt the universe had gone askew: there he sat with a gleaming metal drum-kit setup, but there were no drums, just multi-colored balloons attached to the stand. A beautiful fluorescence, and oh man, what complex sounds he drew from these rubber flowers.
Picture the myriad shapes of balloons, the infinite ways they can be twisted, manipulated, expanded and contracted, their thinness and thickness, their textures. Apply that to the palette of sound Arias can paint with, but only after he learned his craft. He intuits, indeed summons, the sounds inherent in the balloons, which must be touched, tapped, pulled, struck, pummeled, rubbed by hand or damp or dry sponge or sandpaper, snapped with a flick of a finger or a rubber band, manipulated in infinite ways or even popped!
The sounds he draws from these membranophones are weird. Listen to “Harvest-Song 4“ for what I mean: at 4’15” the thickness of the low drone of the rubbed globe, a sound akin but so different from that pulled from a contrabass, yet at other moments it creates a growl, a scrape, a squeal, a baby’s gurgle, or, yes, drums.
Pascal Boudreault’s tenor sax is a perfect complement to Arias’ balloons. Listen to the magnificent thirty-minute first piece from their performance at Roulette, trombonist Jim Staley’s great New York performance space, in 2000. Their sounds are so different and yet each of them could, at any given moment, sound as if they were coming from the great saxist Evan Parker, the wind blowing, a motorcycle revving up or sputtering by, or the internal soundscape of the human body. They’re so in sync that at times it’s hard to tell who is making which sound. Their changes of dynamics or tempo are in tandem.
Pascal was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec, and has lived in Montréal for many years. Ricardo is from Colombia, lived in Barcelona and The Hague, lived in New York from 1996 to 2007, and now resides with his family in Bogotá. He has three CDs under his belt. Fin de siècle—BruitCollage à Manhattan, 1999-2000 is their first record release as a duo.
—Steve Koenig, Poet and Music Journalist, AcousticLevitation.org
(Brooklyn, New York, 2014)