Since they first emerged five years ago with their debut album ‘Future Grotesk’, London-based experimental duo Tomaga (Valentina Magaletti and Tom Relleen) have amassed some high-profile fans and collaborators, participating in 2017’s CAN Project alongside the likes of Thurston Moore, MBV bassist Deb Goodge and original Can vocalist Malcolm Mooney, as well as touring with the likes of Wire, Silver Apples and the recently reconvened Stereolab.
This latest album ‘Bandiera Di Carta’ sees Tomaga collaborating with Parisian instrument builder and composer Pierre Bastien, who’s perhaps known for his self-made mechanical orchestras, comprised of individual mechanisms all playing together in unison (something vividly captured on his three albums for Rephlex). Perhaps more than anything, there’s a distinct free-jazz feel to the eight tracks collected here, with Tomaga’s live instrumentation fusing cohesively with Bastien’s signature mecanoid motors and paper-and-air sound machines, as well as more unexpected sound sources such as rubber bands and tinfoil.
What’s perhaps most notable is that ‘Bandiera Di Carta’ doesn’t sound like anything that the two separate camps have previously released, and it’s also often difficult to discern just who’s responsible for each sonic element. ‘Senza’ opens this album with the repetitive sound of plucked strings falling into place with percussive thumps and eerie wordless murmurs that turn out to be sawed instrumentation, before eerie dubbed-out melodic tones fade into focus alongside rattling percussion, the entire track carrying a curiously ritualistic feel as the mechanical groove endlessly cycles, the rising synths and twinkling keys offering a sense of light at the end of the tunnel.
‘Pipes Of Dunkirk’ sees sudden arcs of treated guitar noise stabbing out amidst an atonal horn loop that endlessly cycles against rattling, Middle Eastern-accented percussion fills and deep dubbed-out bass playing, before ‘Machines With Ideas’ takes things off into warmer territory as a rolling krautrock meets big band jazz drum groove locks in against treated rubber band bass runs and noodling analogue synths.
If the latter track offers up one of the most spectacular tastes of the trio in full flight, elsewhere, ‘Paper Ritual’ sees a slow rolling percussion pattern locking in against distant muted jazz horns, and it took a good minute or so before I realised that what I’d assumed was a hand drum repeatedly being struck was actually one of Bastien’s mechanical wind / paper percussion devices. It’s indicative of the sorts of auditory illusions that Tomaga and Pierre Bastien manage to achieve on this excellent debut collaboration.