While the devil may be in the details for some projects, in contrast dedicated listening will be most rewarding with First Room. For the single 35½ -minute track created out of spatial microtones by Oslo-based tubaist Martin Taxt and bassist/viola da gamba stylist Inga Margrete Aas is concerned with emphasis not movement. Investigating possible relations between architecture and music, the mostly largo and adagio composition is a mini essay in drone and repetition.
Previously involved in trios and duos with the likes of Toshimaru Nakamura and Håvard Volden among others, this is the tuba player’s most reductionist work and it’s justly stabilized by offsets from the stringed instruments. Involved with contemporary notated sounds with Ensemble Allegria or the duo Vilde & Inga, Aas helps propel the affiliated undulating drones by de-emphasizing characteristic instrument intonation, as does Taxt.
Blending deep microtones in the exposition, the ululating buzzes intersect with sweeps and lows and eventually thicken at the one-third mark, after a pause, varying the intermittent echoes with repeated double bass plucks and occasional percussion slaps against metal. Contracting into mere brass breaths and strings scrapes, narrative expression is unexpectedly mixed with chromatics, contrasting a façade-like continuum with elevated pitches resulting from narrow lip-mouthpiece sucking and viola tone stretching. Eventually, after a protracted pause, louder, more dynamic timbres evolve in double counterpoint, culminating in narrow string pinches and subterranean tuba snorts developed at a solemn tempo.
Not for followers of virtuosi, First Room can best be appreciated for its subtle mood fluctuations and resolution.