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Santo Subito - "Xavier"

My, this is awfully heavy on the loud electronics tip for an Accretions release -- but it's actually more like a freejazz album overlaid with power electronics or something equally insane. What's scary is how well it works. Milton Cross (violin, piano, electronics) and Steven Dye (bass clarinet, "flubaphonics") work together to create a kind of tense, droning approach to minimalist experimental sounds, often smothering it in electronics that alternately enhance or obscure the tones coming from the more traditional instruments. Some tracks (like "radiosonde") are a bit closer to traditional improv fare, but then there are tracks like "broken element" that are actually closer in execution to traditional power electronics, only done here with more of an improv / jazz attitude as opposed to turning everything up to eleven and erasing your face -- long, droning tones from the violin are met (and merged wtih) rising electrotones, until it's hard to tell which is which (and then you discover that you don't care, because it doesn't matter). Using such a minimal number of instruments, they manage to create a wide variety of interesting tones and textures. The whole affair was mastered by Drucifer (he of the mighty Dielectric Records), so of course it sounds pretty spiffy. Interesting stuff, and not at all what I would have expected from Cross being involved.

     - RKF, dead Angel

Santo Subito are the duo of Milton Cross on violin and Steven Dye on bass clarinet and his own homemade instruments, which he dubs "flubaphonics". The two describe these pieces as improvised acoustics, though there are moments where they seem to drop into precomposed material. Xavier demonstrates their impressive sense of musical organisation. The microtonal degrees of unison notes are what fascinate the pair, and they play with them through multitracking and a close doubling of each other's parts. Parallel lines of tone sway fractionally in and out of proximity, sparking off shuddering dissonances. The organic timbres of the instruments acquire an eerie glow and the results are stunning: a warm, luminescent chamber music.

     - Sam Davies, The Wire

Xavier reaches across a broad musical history to bring its distinct sound to the listener. That most old school of music comes face to face with the utmost in fringe as classical instruments and styles mesh strangely and sometimes compellingly with experimental and ambient considerations. The music is largely organic in flavor and listeners will recognize much that is, well, recognizable. But the name of the game here is to take something traditional and create something anything but. At times, one will swear he has fallen into the dark soundtrack of a horror or gothic or crime story while at other times the woodwind and string (et. al.) sounds will create a sometimes absorbing, sometimes jarring soundscape. The music can also be heard to mimic the world around us (for example, extended work on the second track, "Whole Trees in Motion," that calls to mind an angry traffic jam). Repulsion and allure meld in a paradoxical musical art that entertains with its references to classical but challenges with decidedly unclassical executions.

     - Kristofer Upjohn, Raves.com

Drone music can have many forms, but many of the drone related records reviewed in Vital Weekly are in most ways highly electronically shaped. The acoustic drone however harks back to the early days of minimal music, to the music of La Monte Young and the Dream Syndicate. Santo Subito, aka Milton Cross (violin) and Steven Dye (bass clarinet) go back to these old days of early minimal music with a record that was recorded on 'a saturday' in April 2005. Besides their usual instruments, they also play homemade horns, piano, electronics (dam it!) and percussion. Whatever electronics there are, they are hidden away in the mix. Cross might be known for his work for Tarentel and Dye is the builder of instruments. The seven pieces on this CD display an excellent variety of sounds. The closing 'Farewell Bouy' is slow, contemplative piece with rumbling percussive sounds in the back, a few chords on the piano and the leading role for the bass clarinet, which is a far cry from 'Radiosonde', a strong minimal driving force along the lines of Micheal Nyman or The Lost Jockey. The wall of sound minimalism is however not the majority here, as most pieces have that more introspective playing of the final piece. All seven make clear that the possibilities of playing acoustic drone music are quite endless and that given the variety on offer here, it's still a pretty coherent disc. Very fine music, refreshing to hear after the many electronica drones usually around this place.

     - Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly

Milton Cross, an accomplished violinist, joins up with Steven Dye who plays a wicked bass clarinet when he's not busy being an artist and a filmmaker. But stop. You're not about to hear some classical music. Completely unconventional drone and ambient noise instead greets your ears. While some sounds are caustic and eerie, there's a certain tenderness that leads you to realize how gifted these two spirited musicians are. Steven Dye also apparently creates his own instruments, which we hear on "Santo Subito" including the 'flubaphone' and its variants the bass flubaphone and double flub. It shouldn't surprise me to find out that the gifted and talented Milton Cross has also performed alongside Dielectric Drone All-Stars who are some of the few artists that got drone right the first time. He's also a member of Tarentel who has had recordings released on the seminal experimental labels of Neurot Records (Neurosis' label) and Temporary Residence Limited (Explosions in the Sky). Xavier is my new favorite band.

     - J-Sin, Smother Magazine

No word on whether either Milton Cross or Steven Dye wore one of those little plastic wristbands in support of "Pope John Paul for Sainthood" during the recording of this album. Anyone? Anyone? But back to the music. While there are quite a few rooms to wander through while listening to this limited edition disc, I'm most intrigued by the delicate, dreamy intimacy the duo captures on Clear Sky Model. Remarkably, this is on a disc advertised with the line "If you like bass clarinet, violin, homemade horns, piano, electronics-or more specifically, all of those things at once!-then check it out," so don't say you weren't warned. And okay, all hell does sort of break out in the middle of this 10-minute piece, but still. It's the sort of soundtrack you'd expect would accompany a screening of one of those old Super 8 films people find in their parents' attics. Something vaguely innocent that wouldn't seem ominous at all except for the music telling you the "real" back story. I mean, sure, they're frolicking in the waves and having a hell of a honeymoon now. But they better enjoy it, because in ten years, they'll have three kids to feed, a second mortgage to sweat, and one of them will be caught having an affair with that guy down the street.

     - Molly Sheridan, Newmusicbox

"Santo subito" (in Italian that means "saint now") was the faithful's cry after the death of Pope John Paul II. Steven Dye plays bass clarinet and self built instruments that use a membrane "to excite or vibrate an air column", all defined by the name "Flubaphonics"; Milton Cross is an accomplished violinist and pianist active since many years, during which he collaborated - among others - with Tarentel and Dielectric Drone All-Stars. Does all this mean that "Xavier" is somehow definable? Not for a second. The uneven frequency beatings and android glissandos that reeds, membranes and strings elicit in more than one section are a heavenly dissonance often nearing the borders of a mild-mannered traffic jam; there are intense melancholies too, making me think about my old Dan Ar Bras vinyl albums melted by the heat of a malfunctioning stove. Lo and behold, a periphrasis for Steve Reich's "Violin phase" appears at the beginning of "Radiosonde", soon mutating in a vivid recollection of abraded chamber music invented on the spot by Dye and Cross in one of their previous existences. The final "Farewell Bouy" is pure slanted romanticism. Give this album a try - pronto.

     - Touching Extremes

Ah, Accretions, a label so perversely avant-garde they're actually admirable, even if you'd only choose their music to get rid of unwanted guests. This one is the sound of Indian religious music and electronic tones filtered through the noise of a traffic jam.

     - Beatmag

XAVIER features the duo SANTO SUBITO in a raucus affair that employs improvised sounds forcefully; primarily on violin and bass clarinet (Portrait/ Whole Trees in Motion/ Radiosonde/ Broken Element/ Clear Sky Model/ Floodplan/ Farewell Buoy, 50:50) Drones abound as the two artistsfill the room with walls of sound. Steven Dye expresses heightened emotions through incessant squeaks and screams that run the range of his bass clarinet. His upper register gets quite a workout. Milton Cross relies on the violin's tireless ability to sustain phrases without end, as he drones endlessly and issues tremolos that tweak the senses. Together the two improvising artists sway without meter, for the most part through a wilderness that thrives on dissonance and eschews silence. Dye adds raucous sounds, some of which come from hand-made instruments(Dye, b cl, flubaphonics, Cross, vln, p, electron, April 2005, location not provided). He refers to flubaphonics as the use of a membrane to excite or vibrate an air column. This basic principle adds something decidedly different to the program. Both Cross and Dye believe in uniqueness at the expense of beauty. While their program is different, it's not one that most audiences would find pleasurable.

     - Cadence

Santo Subito est l'incarnation du duo californien formé par Steven Dye, artiste multi-facettes, et Tony Cross, musicien prolifique. Les deux compères avaient déjà collaboré sur plusieurs des derniers disques de Tarentel. Dyeest un artiste un peu touche-à-tout, auteur d'installations, de films, d'animations... Musicalement, il s'est déjà illustré par la fabrication d'instruments, des compositions dédiées, et des collaborations à des projets musicaux collectif. Tony Cross est plus connu comme musicien, notamment pour ses nombreuses collaborations avec Tarentel, John Vanderslice, No Name Trio, Laughingstock... et une demi-douzaine de bandes-son de films.

Après la première sortie "officielle" de Cross, l'année dernière, un EP dédié au violon, dont il joue depuis son enfance, cette première sortie de Santo Subito, qui a déjà tourné à San Francisco, est une sorte de cristallisation du travail commun de Cross et de Dye. Celui-ci prend une existence indépendante de leur travaux en collaboration avec Tarentel. Le fait est que l'on reconnaît facilement des sonorités déjà rencontrées sur Paper White ou Ghost Weight, notamment concernant la clarinette basse, instrument de prédilection de Dye sur Xavier, Cross étant plutôt porté sur le violon. Deux rôles qu'ils ont pu jouer dans Tarentel, de façon volante comme le groupe le pratique, et dans lesquelles ils s'installent ici de façon plus permanente, dans une pratique plus proche du jazz. Du coup, c'est comme si ces disques de Tarentel contenaient les germes de ce son, étonnamment personnel, qui est désormais celui de Santo Subito. Preuve déjà de la fertilité de Tarentel et de son influence sur la scène californienne.

Pas question de sanctifier le projet d'emblée, mais il faut reconnaître que les deux compères Dye et Cross sont là à l'origine d'un LP plutôt réussi, à la fois minimaliste dans ses moyens, leurs instruments respectifs étant quasiment toujours présents - et à la fois propice à certains passages forts en son, pleins et enveloppants comme dans le meilleur de Pelt. Xavier a le mérite, par rapport au récent EP de Tony Cross, de tirer profit de ce minimalisme pour créer un son reconnaissable, sans tomber dans l'ersatz du minimalisme américain ou du néo-classicisme.

A mettre au crédit de cette personnalité, il y a certainement les instruments-maison fabriqués par Dye, dont le "Flubaphone" et ses quelques variantes. Mais la réussite de Xavier tient certainement le plus à la complémentarité de ses deux membres et de leurs deux instruments, maniés avec ingéniosité, explorant beaucoup de techniques venues du classique comme de l'improvisation libre, sans distinction.

L'album se termine sur un très beau chaud-froid entre la clarinette, à pleine puissance, et un piano classique manié avec beaucoup de retenue. Un art des contrastes maîtrisé, évocateur, qui caractérise bien Santo Subito.

     - Constantin D, Mille Feuille

Freie Avantgarde kennt keine Grenzen. Accretions Records hat etliche feine und witzige, bisweilen auch extrem anstrengende Musik auf CD veröffentlicht, von studierten und inspirierten Musikern eingespielt oder zusammengestellt. Das Duo Milton Cross (vi, p, electr) und Steven Dye (b-cl, flubaphonics) hat unter dem Namen Santo Subito die 7 teilweise sehr langen Tracks im April 2005 aufgezeichnet. "Xavier" tendiert in Richtung extrem anstrengend und wird Schiffseigner und Seefahrer erfreuen, deren Gemüt über die Dauer der Zeit Freude an ausdauernden, dröhnenden Schiffshupen entwickelt hat. Während das Duo im ersten Track "Portrait" noch ansatzweise harmonisch agiert und eine schöngeistige industrielle Stimmung schafft, ist das groteske Monster "Whole Trees in Motion", über 18 Minuten lang, nur noch ein einziger gewaltiger Wall Of Sound. So groß wie Schiffsriesen im Hafen, so dramatisch wuchtig der Klang des eindimensionalen Stückes. Es scheint, als würden Violine und Bassklarinette an der Außenhaut eines solchen Schiffes herum klettern, so zuckeln und wispern die Instrumente eigenartig konfuse Melodiestrukturen zusammen, während das (oder die) Flubaphonics den stehenden, lauten, dröhnenden Ton erzeugt(en), der wenig variabel etliche Zeit nur auf der Stelle steht und die Qualität von Folter hat. Ab der 11. bis zur 14. Minute reizt dieser Ton alles aus, ich verfluche die Erfindung des Gehörs. Des Gehörs? Nein, des (oder der) Flubaphonics. In den kürzeren Stücken spielt das Duo einige ganz anmutige minimalistische Motive; nervöse, verwirrte Songs, anlehnungsbedürftig und forsch - bis das Drama erneut seinen Ausgang nimmt. Aber die langen Tracks, davon gibt es gleich 3, sind eine Huldigung an die Erfindung des Instrumentes, das Schiffshupen nachzumachen exzellent in der Lage ist. Da zieht man gern ins Gebirge.

     - Volkmar Mantei, Ragazzi!


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