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Ernesto Diaz-Infante & Bob Marsh - Rags and Stones
CD-R (San Francisco, CA)



-thunderstones
-gathering of the fish people
-invocation
-north east south west
-first ceremony (dawn)
-second ceremony (noon)
-third ceremony (evening)
-fourth ceremony (midnight)
-dance of the bear clan




Ernesto Diaz-Infante: Prepared Guitar
Bob Marsh: Violin & Cello

Reviews:
(Improvijazzation Nation no. 54) Our first review of "Public Eyesore" (label) discs. Orb-viously, th' reason I picked this particular CD to review is because I've played together with Ernesto for some many years now... and because I've heard many of the CD's that Bob has put out from San Francisco (where they are both based). Diaz-Infante's prepared guitar work (as always) is in fine form, as is Marsh's violin & cello playing. In fact, the intricate dynamics of their improvisations are captured almost flawlessly on "Rags and Stones". You must be dedicated to the listening experience... no dawdling here.... this isn't background music for swanky uptown parties. If you reserve an hour (or so) with your headphones, you will enjoy it even more. The pieces are not (at all) "screech&whistle", they are more like string symphonies... detailed but not overbearing. One of the most attractive parts of their work together (especially on this album), for this listener anyway, is that there are open spaces... leaving much room for the imagination of the listener. I am reminded of some of the early vinyl efforts from LaDonna Smith on the TransMuseq label back in the mid-eighties. For anyone who wants something new and adventurous to listen to, this is IT! Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us! - Rotcod Zzaj

(All Music Guide) Recording details for this duo session between guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante and violinist/cellist Bob Marsh remain undisclosed, but it obviously happened in the studio. Rags and Stones contains nine improvisations of the very abstract kind. Diaz-Infante is in fine form, his playing on prepared acoustic guitar as varied and challenging as ever. Marsh is a less compelling player. First he sounds too far in the mix, which tends to alienate his contribution. His playing recalls Nigel Coombes in the late 70s and early 80s (when he was in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble): short, fragmented lines anchored in mid-air. His performance on cello in the closer ³Dance of the Bear Clan² is his best moment, rich in minute gestures. Fans of British free improv will probably find a lot to like in Rags and Stone } (Diaz-Infante has integrated the music of Derek Bailey and Roger Smith), but it pales in comparison to Wires and Wooden Boxes , the guitarist¹s second duo session with Chris Forsyth. It felt more involved and was better recorded. Still, "North East South West² and the ³Ceremony² suite contain challenging free improv the likes of which are rarely heard on the US West Coast. - François Couture

(Vital Weekly no. 317) A few weeks ago I discussed a CDR release by Ernesto Diaz-Infante, a duet with Anders Ostberg. I was not very positive about it. Here is the revanche of Diaz Infante. Another duet, this time with Bob Marsh, an unknown guy for me who plays violin and cello. Ernesto plays prepared guitar. Together they work they way through nine pieces of improvised music. Plucking their strings on their instruments, this is quite a more traditional disc of improvised music, but an altogether more pleasent work then his other duet. All of the sounds come to us untreated with electronic effects, which adds a more natural feel to it. Sturdy improvised music here. - Frans de Waard

(AmbiEntrance 5/2002) Taking a nonstandard approach to the instruments at hand, Thunderstones is strewn with thousands of little plunks, clunks, twangs and weird string-rippling activities which carry on into the second track, Gathering of the Fish-People, perhaps with a few more random bow-stabs in this piece. Another unnoticeable segue occurs as Invocation continues with the twiddly-fidgeting, squeaks, squeals, thumps, atonal chordbursts and rustling bustling. Swiftly swishy strums and tweaky creaks bring more odd sparkles (and maybe a few busted strings) to Second Ceremony (Noon) (1:39)... Frankly (with the possible exception of slightly-more-spacious Third Ceremony (Evening)) the works are so similarly discombobulated it's nearly impossible to tell where one ends and the next begins, effectively adding up to a 50-minute spew of fragmented shards of string-borne discordance. In its closing turn, Dance of the Bear Clan (11:50) adds a few low cello growls to the already-established tableau of enigmatic instrumental ambiguities. Too exaggeratedly weird and noisily interjected to qualify as "ambient" listening, so we must stuff Rags and Stones into the experimental niche. While I can wholeheartedly give high points to Ernesto Diaz Infante and Bob Marsh for determinedly steering their strings into hyperunusual territories, I don't personally find it to be a sit-back-and-enjoy kind of listen... quirky dissonance only goes so far in my ear these days, sorry. An overall C which includes appreciation for damn-the-reviews exuberance in the duo's idiosyncratic insistence. - David J. Opdyke

(Indieville 12/8/2002) Free improv. You either love it, or you don't get what the fuck's up with it. And this split-cdr will do nothing to change that. In fact, unless you already are a fan of the free improvisatory style, this album is very likely to piss you off. But to those already acquainted with the style, well, this will prove to be quite a treat. Comprised of sparse guitarwork courtesy of Diaz-Infante and similar violin and cello by Marsh, this work calls to mind earlier material by Hans Riechel and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. The tracks all go together well, each one showcasing a different example of that talented, intricate instrument-playing that is at once interesting and entertaining. The high points here aren't particularly strong, as the recording is solidly enjoyable throughout, though some particularly inspired bits stand out. "Third Ceremony (Evening)," for example, manages to toy with the listener's head in a prolonged near-silence where mere scuffs of strings and other noises can be heard. The effect is astounding, leaving the listener both mystified and dazzled. "Fourth Ceremony (Midnight)," which immediately follows, brings things back into perspective with an amazing effort by the two, using sophisticated plucks and rubs of the instruments to build a magnificent feeling of musical urgency. Altogether, this split-album sees the duo of Ernesto and Bob at top form. With unmatchable talent and a zest for complex, yet sparse, sounds, the two bring an excellent style to this album. A must for fans of the genre. - Matt Shimmer

(Splendid 7/2/2002) I may not be the best judge of this recording, as the sort of sonic doodling in evidence on Rags And Stones has always been particularly difficult for me to grasp. This is not passive listening -- it requires patience and a commitment. Lacking any studio flourishes, the tracks on Rags And Stones retain an organic feeling, paralleling the imagery of the title and signalling what is an otherwise obtuse conceptual frame. Guitar strings used as percussion, violin bows beating the bridge of the instrument, atonal chords fracturing into sputtering squeaks and squalls -- these are the conventions at the disposal of guitarist Diaz-Infante and violinist/cellist Bob Marsh. There is a simple, albeit narrow-minded, way to attack this type of improvised music. If "prepared guitar" is short-hand for flicking and breaking detuned strings, few of us lack the skills to participate in such an ensemble. If whacking the exterior of a cello with a bow is an avant-garde performance statement, there are many of us are capable of performing. But it is the thoughtful organization of these elements and the forward movement of Diaz-Infante's improvisation that yields rewards for those with the wherewithal to stick to this brand of free-form sonic exploration. Certainly not for those in search of "ambient" soundscapes, but just as appropriate for an hour of quiet contemplation with a pair of headphones. - Mike Baker

(Dead Angel no. 52) Yes, i know, we are apparently whores for Ernesto's boss pickin' tones -- pretty soon we won't even bother with other artists, we'll just become All Ernesto, All The Time. He sure puts out a lot o' stuff, i'm having a hard time keeping up with it all.... At any rate, here he's doing his thing with the "prepared guitar" in tandem with Bob Marsh, whose violin and cello make a nice complement to Ernesto's devolved guitar stylings. There's nine tracks on here and the lengths are pretty manageable (well, the last one, "Dance of the Bear Clan," tops out at 11:50), and judging from title similarities, i'd say there's some kind of primitivism theme running through the release. (Or maybe it's just a vast in-joke; experimental musicians are an easily-amused lot.) With titles like "Gathering of the Fish People," "First Ceremony (Dawn)," "Second Ceremony (Noon)," and the like, it certainly looks like there's a concept at work here. As for the music, it's pretty amorphous and chaotic -- lots of squeaking and squawking, thumping and bumping, guitars and other stringed instruments being tortured into making sounds their designers never intended for them to make. Some mighty strange doings afoot here.... This is definitely "out-there" music, somewhere in the neighborhood of Bill Horist with Sun Ra peeking over the fence, so the timid and unadventurous need not apply, okay? As for the rest of us, we can only wish we sounded this exotic. On the "Ceremony" songs (there's four of them, and they essentially form the center of the album) they rein in the chaos just enough to (usually) sort of approximate actual songs as opposed to collections of weird noises, while "Dance of the Bear Clan" is an exercise in extended minimalism that maybe goes on a tad too long (it does build from nothingness to somethingness rather nicely, though). More fine sounds from the devolved sound heartland. - RKF

(Jackal Blaster) This collaboration with Marsh may be a bit different than the one with Forsyth in that, at least by the track titles, there is a more defined focus and theme running through the album. While the titles may speak of strange and ritualistic ideas, it is still musically defined. Its very abstract and minimal of course, with Diaz-Infante on guitar and Marsh playing violin and cello. The entire recording could be one long track, ascending and descending into moody ambience, or at best, moderate kalidescopic soundscapes of musical invocation. A very stark, open, and textured release of obscurity and improvisational difficulty that tends to slowly and carefully unfold with patience. - Jeramy Ponder

(Ampersand Etcetera 2002_10) We have heard Diaz-Infante's guitar on a couple of albums from Pax Recordings (most recently in the last issue) and here he teams up with Bob Marsh on violin and cello. Together they have created an album of relaxed improv – all acoustic which creates a warm tone, with the guitar generally loose strung and the violin picked or short bowed. The mood is set by the loose lyrical guitar and picked violin in 'Thunderstones', while 'Gathering of the fish people' has a light scraping violin and more scrabbly guitar. The mood is continued, with work on both instruments which leans towards melody without simply giving in to it, exploring the possibilities of both instruments but not transgressing into an area of undirected randomness. In 'Second ceremony (noon)' there is a feel of electronica in the scraping violin and short string picking guitar, while a percussive clattering surrounds 'Third ceremony (evening)'. 'Fourth ceremony (midnight)' is a quite dramatic interplay of strange noises from the violin, probably bowed later picked, and scrabbling picks on the guitar. All the tracks so far have been bracing intense and well controlled excursions, In many ways the final track, 'Dance of the bear clan', is the highlight – a 12 minute piece which centres around the violin which moves from gentle picks to scrapes, more delicate short bowing, some droning, long notes and finally talking through the final minutes. Throughout this the guitar provides a well-balanced support, at one time joining in a call and response interaction. To me it is this balancing and conversation which makes an improv album like this interesting – throughout they have been listening to each other and responding or supporting with their playing. With an album like this, in the final analysis, it boils down to how you feel about the textures and timbres of the instruments and their interplay – you are not getting much in the way of hummable melodies. To me, this one works through the combination of talents and instruments. - Jeremy Keens

(Eld Rich Palmer no. 11) The encounter of two American improvisers of two generations: when Bob Marsh (violin and cello) completed his BFA in 1974, Ernesto Diaz-Infante (prepared guitar) was merely six years old. But in 2002 the latter's CV is impressively long too. This session, divided into nine pieces, might be much of a challenge. Well, to me at least it is. Despite a broad range of the sounds used here, the music is minimal and concise. Both parties, quick-tempered and edgy, seem to steer clear of neat, elaborate phrases. Instead they employ terse, fierce ones in their conversation, which actually is more of a bitter altercation. As you may have already guessed, there is no point in looking forward to the moment when the instruments begin to complement each other, as it will never come because of the antagonistic nature of their articulation. The only moments when the parties seem to think of reconciliation are the moments of repose but these soon turn to be like crawling back to your lair to re-build your strength before the next round of bickering. A demanding and remarkable thing, but not necessarily digestable if you aren't into improv stuff. - Przemek Chojnacki

(Touching Extremes) Prepared guitar, violin and cello are the sources in this satisfying presentation by Ernesto and Bob, a constant presence on the scene of free improvisation and radical instrumental music. I am actually discovering how particular this kind of stuff is, at low level; while it's true that you get the "subtle" nuances through headphones or at medium/high volume, on the contrary I listened to "Rags and stones" differently and it seemed that drops, scratches and strange animal voices were coming from the outside through my monitors. This because the guys here know how to use space and silence, which I believe it's quintessential in this field. To me, records like this help develop a "taste" for everyday life sounds. - Massimo Ricci


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