Painting: Javi Pessoa

Marco Serrato is the bassist for Spanish doom/jazz/garage rock trio Orthodox, who have been discussed extensively on this site over the years. Suffice it to say, they’ll explode your definitions of rock, metal, and jazz quite handily, depending on which album you’re listening to at the time. And you should listen to them all. He’s also a member of Hidden Forces Trio, a group just as difficult to pin down as Orthodox, albeit coming more obviously from a jazz direction.

Seis Canciones Para Cuervo (Six Songs For Crow) is his second release as a solo artist, following 2013’s Taaru cassette. Where that one was mostly improvised, citing influence from Henry Grimes and Simon H. Fell as well as Keiji Haino and Mats Gustafsson, Seis Canciones is a suite, composed and highly disciplined, on which Serrato plays multiple instruments, including upright bass (obviously), drums, violin, trumpet and piano.

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Photo: Beatriz Carmona

The album begins with “Cuervo Canta Su Balada” (Crow Sings His Ballad), a piece for solo bass; Serrato taps the instrument’s body and scratches and scrapes the strings, creating groans and slow creaks like a ship’s rigging at midnight. At times, the long painful tones do sound like a crow attempting, and failing, to sing. The second track, “Cuervo Sueña Que Es Mujer” (Crow Dreams He is a Woman), features upright bass, bowed with aching slowness and flanked by what sound like two violins, playing discordantly squealing melodies in the background. “Cuervo Devora los Ojos de Su Padre” (Crow Eats His Father’s Eyes) is next, a piece for three upright basses, all bowed and all battling for the listener’s attention while somehow managing to complement one another.

The disc’s second half begins with “¡Baila Cuervo, Baila!” (Dance, Crow, Dance), another piece for three basses, but this time only the one in the middle is bowed, while the other two are plucked and scraped, creating a mix of low rumbles and weird skittering sounds like rodents scurrying behind you as you listen—on headphones, it can be almost unnerving. The longest cut, “Las Dos Caídas de Cuervo” (Crow’s Two Falls), passes the first of its nine and a half minutes in near-silence; eventually, two and then, again, three basses are heard, droning and emitting slow bowed passages. For nearly three minutes, it alternates between quietude and bursts of frenzied free playing; then, at the four-and-a-half minute mark, an out-of-tune haunted-house piano is heard. As the piece progresses, two squeaking, half-muted trumpets are heard, and some eruptive free drumming, as well as some barely audible, ominous whispers. (In the liner notes, Serrato says the voices were inspired by Black Sabbath‘s “Children of the Grave.”) Unfortunately, the piece doesn’t come to the kind of shattering conclusion all that energy would suggest; it just kind of peters out. The last track, “De Cuervo y las Estrellas” (Of Crow and the Stars), features what sounds like a gently plucked, somewhat out-of-tune guitar (think of Keiji Haino‘s more melancholy work, like Affection or Black Blues), a scraping sound that could be an upright bass or a bowed cymbal, and a haunting music box. Lasting just over a half hour in all, Seis Canciones Para Cuervo is an intense, moody work that blends techniques from improv, modern classical, jazz, and movie scoring into a sonic journey well worth taking.

Stream and/or buy Seis Canciones Para Cuervo on Bandcamp:

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