Italian electric bassist Giacomo Merega once again gets together with saxophonist Noah Kaplan and guitarist Marco Cappelli for a set of rhythm-less free form improvisations Watch the Walls Instead. A follow up to the light and other things (2008), this trio is only actually a trio for five of the twelve tracks; Anthony Coleman joins them on piano for seven cuts and violin player Mauro Pagini makes it a quintet for two performances.
Listening to Walls is a lot like listening to the soundtrack of a suspense thriller movie: the songs don’t proceed so much as they lurk. Kaplan, a sort of spiritual heir to Joe Maneri, applies his microtonalities, dipping his notes into the intervals, and Merega keeps a low profile, spidering his way around Kaplan, Cappelli and (sometimes) Coleman. Merega served as a sideman on Kaplan’s recent release Descendents with Joe Morris handling the guitar parts and in fact, it’s not hard to imagine Watch the Walls Instead as Descendents without percussion.
The emotions and timbres in such structureless music like this accounts for almost the whole performance, and that’s where these musicians put their energies into. Kaplan will switch between tenor and soprano saxophones, and Cappelli sticks mostly with electric guitar, but wrings spooky resonances from it. Coleman’s piano alternately flows like a brook and goes minimal and stilted, tactfully applying the right atmosphere in accordance to what the others are doing at the moment. With most songs running under four minutes, the participants keeps their collective ideas concise and never ramble for too long.
Like a series of extemporaneous conversations that can jump from one topic to the next more or less randomly, Watch the Walls Instead moves in ways not predetermined. It flows in directions guided by spontaneous human interaction. For a record like this, it’s best to go with that flow.