Brazilian Rodrigo Montoya is a founding member of Abaetetuba. He has a background in the free-improvisation scene, and has been active since 2003. Mr. Montoya has spent years playing soprano saxophone, classical guitar, shamise and biwa (the latter two being traditional Japanese instruments). In creating Yaca and its debut release I, he has teamed up with Ignacio Moreno-Fluxá, a Chilean drone-ambient artist usually performing under the alias ihä, that has been doing his thing since 2011. While improv and ambient may be seen as related genres, it is not immediately obvious how a collaboration such as this might turn out – especially if one is pretty much unfamiliar with the artists in question.
I is made up of two tracks: 16 minute “Vertigo” and 22 minute “Power”. “Vertigo” takes off with dreamy, low-key drones and cloud-like notes, over which distinct and musique concrete style object and instrument manipulations rasp and clang rather softly. The track then expands and builds, especially the noisier parts, until it is quite an intense and not entirely pleasant listening experience. Being an old fan of various forms of noise and industrial, this reviewer is not taken aback, though. Indeed, it is quite interesting to hear an act which gives the initial impression of dealing mainly in softer atmospherics take off into realms of almost violent disharmonious experimentation. About ten minutes in, the song calms down a little, only for a bass dominated, quasi-industrial rhythm to take center stage. This rhythm is in turn complemented by further instrumental improvisation, before the track turns the intensity down for a cool-down period which lasts about four minutes.
Suitably enough, “Power” is the stronger of the two tracks. The full playtime is utilized to the max. The beginning holds off even more than that of “Vertigo”, as very careful drones and strange instrumental noises ever so slowly explore themselves and the world for several minutes. Painfully physical and present squeals start inserting themselves into the mix about the same time as the possibly string based bass drones start gaining strength. But this time there is no chaotic crescendo. Rather, like waves upon the shore, a wide variety of drones and slightly abusive improvisations come and go, erecting foaming little structures which all melt away as soon as they are almost completed. Towards the end there is a minor crescendo after all – the wave that made it the furthest before receding, perhaps.
To enjoy I, it is necessary to listen actively. If used as background music, the somewhat harsh and unpredictable instrumental assaults will simply disturb the droning peace promised, but never quite delivered, by the calmer foundation. If attention is paid, Yaca deliver an utterly impressive piece of complex, varied and multi-faceted music, in which the painful and violent wed the soothing and the harmonious to give birth to something quite out of the ordinary.