A more magical cauldron of composition and improvisation could hardly be concocted than this creative collection of pieces for voice and string quartet. I had the opportunity of attending the premier performance of this project in Montreal before it got “waxed," and the recording is every bit as magical as the live rendition of the pieces.
Composer and singer Equiluz has imagined a finely inflected set of nine movements. Not always articulating an explicit text, the voice is used as a fifth instrument in a kind of multilingual scat style. The strong geo-historical connotations of the string quartet (i.e. Europe’s noble courts c. 1700s and on) are here subverted in idiomatic writing combining indigenous sounds of the Americas along with free improvisation and tightly rendered ensemble writing that evokes many local colors, from the lush valleys of Mexico, to the Brazilian Rainforest, to the shouting of the Thunder Beings on the North American plains, and more.
Born in Mexico, the cosmopolitan Equiluz has lived in Columbia, Paris and Lisbon, before coming to Montreal by way of Quebec City. She has performed internationally and is a frequent collaborator with musicians in the thriving Musique Actuelle scene in the province of Quebec. In this ambitious project, a polyglot sensibility comes through loud and clear in the multi-stylistic qualities of the compositions, with titles in a number of languages, like the opener “Aluxes" which announces the music to come via allusions to a playful Maya spirit being, and other titles, like “Tiempo Herido," that reflect a more mournful mood, or the rhythmically possessed piece called “Tonnere."
In Rubedo’ro, Equiluz is joined by four Montreal string players: violinist Marilys Trudel, viola player Julie Babaz, cellist Sheila Hannigan and bassist Stéphane Diamantakiou. The ensemble is honed to render in very precise playing the music Equiluz has penned, but as mentioned before, there is also plenty of improvisation, and individual expression worked in, which makes this release so interesting: it sings with a clear authorial voice, but is emboldened by the multiplicity of personalities, making this a very living, vibrant set of music. The stylistic twists and turns make for an exotic ride along the fine edge that composed material meets improvisation can provide, but the writing here is also a solid and taut high wire along which dance the many colors of Equiluz’s richly textured, warm and expressive voice.