Hungarian-American saxophonist and composer André Vida is co-founder of the NYC collective Creative Trans-Informational Alliance and a frequent collaborator with musicians as diverse as Oni Ayhun, Anthony Braxton and Kevin Blechdom. His most recent release is the three-volume retrospective Brud, put out last year by PAN Records.
I’ve been listening to Transverse mostly on the train between Manhattan and New Jersey, where my parents live. It’s been a pretty practical way of listening, because this isn’t music that has a totally dominating presence, even though it keeps and demands my focus. For me, it kind of exists like a piece of furniture, a love seat or a really comfortable coffin, carved and painted over with some indiscernible code. It’s more part of your surroundings, as opposed to totally taking them over; it’s music that has a function beyond strict, heavy listening. That said, Carter Tutti Void make really, really driving and cathartic stuff. With every listen, I keep coming back to how strange the sound sources are— that is, the ones on top of the subtly shifting, four-four techno-ish beats. Neither the album nor the individual songs provide any linear dramatic form. It’s as if the underlying rhythm freezes time and the chopped and distorted vocals and guttural guitar noise happen almost independently, not within any sort of “progression”. The space in the music just hangs there and then when it’s filled—which happens relatively sparingly—it’s done so to maximum effect.
Living in Berlin, I’ve been endlessly exposed to incredibly boring electronic music—repetitive beats that are just heinous crimes against social culture and humanity. Needless to say, I get completely turned off within that sort of rigid context and certain types of digital production. I often ask myself, “Am I being used as a place holder for somebody to sell cappuccino to?” Exactly what is going on in this situation, here, in this coffee house, that demands such ridiculous repetition? Not that I go to coffee houses that often, but the music is almost impossible to escape. It’s the constant backdrop of the touristical rape of Berlin. In contrast, with Transverse, the repetition is really organic. And the fact that it’s live electronics only adds to the “natural” feeling or atmosphere it exudes. I’m still trying to imagine how people dance to this music. The polyrhythms are so intricate and unexpected and wild. I have this vision of people intuitively moving to secrets their bodies have been hiding for centuries. Hypnotized into a confrontation between their pre-sexualized beings and the linguistic entrappings of commerce. And when you compare the first four live tracks to the last one, ‘V4’, which is actually the same as the fourth but done in the studio, you can hear how Carter Tutti Void are dancing with the audience. Endlessly feeding back into each other, coveting one symbiotic breath. Grunting histories into and out of each others mouths. There is just so much more intrigue live. And that, for me, is an exciting way of capturing electronic music: dirty, spontaneous, and ancestrally imperfect.
As a trio, Carter Tutti Void seem not only locked into the unpredictability and complexity of their tools, but also into improvisation and interplay with each other. There’s a breaking point with playing any instrument where you start using the instrument more than it’s using you. And that’s not an easy thing to achieve, because the instrument isn’t just a material thing. We’re talking about the entire history and industry surrounding the object and conventions for how it’s supposed to be used. The body, the syntheziser, the voice all cracking under the pressure of an overabundance of options. Released from any obligation to sound out a definitive answer. Floating between right and wrong like the lost angry taunting love cries of a distant goddess. To my ears, the five tracks on Transverse sound like an extremely cybernetic take on sound manipulation. Carter Tutti Void are on a search for hidden ghosts, convincing them out into the open, and etching them into the bodies of a chosen few. I will definitely be coming back to this record and cooking some of those mysteries into my near future.