I have to admit to not being a huge fan of minimalism as a design conceit for CD packaging. Give me long lists of semi-useless information and lots of graphics any day. I’m going to have to make an exception for this self-titled release from duo Tilt, however, as it perfectly matches the stunning sounds found on the disc and left me intrigued and wanting to find out more.
The sounds are based on Tomaz Grom’s double bass improvisations which are digitally manipulated in realtime by Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec. The double bass is used in its entirety to generate audio – from bowing and plucking the strings through to tapping the body, rubbing the neck with hands to produce quiet squeaks, bowing the wood – anything that can produce raw information to be processed. It is the interplay between these sounds and the processing that is so impressive. One incredible section midway through the second track (the tracks are numbered rather than titled) sees the bass start out sounding as one would expect a bowed double bass to sound, then seamlessly morphs into a violin sound, then a bird whistling, a trumpet, a needle scratching old vinyl, and then silence. It’s possibly completely created just on the double bass, but it is difficult to tell. At times, it is only placement in the stereo field that allows discernment between the two artists, at others this discernment is impossible, so sympathetic are they to each other’s playing. Sambolec keeps his DSP manipulation extremely focused. Every sound he generates is short and sharp and has an individual clarity. He never lapses into drone, the default fallback of much of this kind of music, but keeps things constantly bursting and shifting. Conversely, he refrains from the kind of painful, ear piercing of noise artists, but maintains an inviting warmth throughout.
The structure of the seven tracks, recorded in two separate sessions in Spain and Slovenia in 2004, ebb and flow in a traditional classical sense, Sambolic and Grom having an innate understanding of when to use repetition and when to move on in order to hold maximum attention. At just under 39 minutes the album is perfectly timed and paced. A great listening experience from two musicians who have established strict, and fairly minimal, boundaries in which to explore every available nuance.