Carlo Costa’s Natura Morta Conjures the Ghosts of Improvisations Past

by delarue

Carlo Costa is an anomaly as a drummer. He specializes in magical, mysterious, raptly quiet improvisations. His most rapturously interesting project is his sepulchral Natura Morta trio with violist Frantz Loriot and bassist Sean Ali. Their latest album together, Decay, is streaming at Bandcamp. Their next gig is Feb 7 at around 8 PM at the Full Salon, a house concert series at 221 Linden Blvd (Rogers/Nostrand) in Crown Heights on a triplebill with guitarist Lautaro Mantilla‘s electroacoustic project and the piano/tenor sax duo of Mariel Berger and Anna Webber; more info is here.

Natura Morta’s self-titled first album was a flitting, flickering masterpiece; this latest one is slightly more animated. As with the first album, lows are mostly the domain of the drums: you’d probably never guess there was any bass on most of it since Ali’s contributions are generally confined to minimal, high washes and overtones. The opening track, Sirens sets a midrange drone over cloudbanks of brushed drumwork and high overtone loops, rising and falling with a whispery hint of a shuffle that grows to a sort of Black Angel’s Death Song Jr. You could call most of it ambient music for organic instruments and you wouldn’t be off base. The twelve-minute Miasmata begins with the creak of a crypt door and a hint of temple bells, an astigmatic walk through a sonic catacomb that picks up unexpectedly, a brief, brightly hammering interlude giving way to squirrelly creaks and squeaks, muted smoke-signal tom-toms, and a stealthy submarine bass drone.

The album’s most epic track, The Burial of Memories layers scraping, muted, plucked textures, up to what’s essentially an acoustic motorik groove, followed by a snowy, shuffling stroll, keening whispers, hints of a music box and far-distant artillery, more of those temple bells finally rising to a whirlwind. It’s the most hypnotic yet the most dynamic of the four pieces here. The album winds up with As the Dawn Fades, which paints an early morning rainforest tableau with chimes and slithery, insectile fragments of sound. It’s all best enjoyed as a whole, late at night, with the lights out. Unless you’re really tired, it will keep you awake as you go deeper and deeper into the night.