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Alfredo Triff: 21 Broken Melodies at Once

Cuban violinist Alfredo Triff first crossed paths with audio auteur Kip Hanrahan on the latter’s 1988 release, Days and Nights of Blue Luck Inverted, spinning ardent lines behind David Murray’s bedroom tenor sax on Astor Piazzolla’s “Ah, Intruder! (Female).” Since then, Triff has contributed to most of Hanrahan’s distinctive (if increasingly opaque) output during the ’90s and onward. This album, the first to be issued under Triff’s name, is a continuation of that collaboration. According to producer Hanrahan’s liner notes, after the violinist fled the state-controlled artistic life in Cuba, he vowed only to play the music he wanted to play.

Fair enough, but apparently the music Triff has been waiting to make is an arid, minimalist variation of progressive rock, set against a bed of percolating percussion. Combining an electric instrument with a vibratoless technique, Triff’s often sounds like gifted but beleaguered ’70s-model King Crimson violinist David Cross. When that hornlike tone is applied to the mathematical shapes and repetitive structures of such miniatures as “Front and Back” (where Triff actually sounds rather more like Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp), the recipe results in “Larks’ Tongues in Mole.” Burbling bass and scraped piano strings make “Las Cosas te Vienen Encima” sound like an outtake from Brian Eno’s Before and After Science, while “Mindtrances,” improbably enough, is a not-so-distant cousin to Laurie Anderson’s “Music for a Large and Changing Room.”

Triff’s sketchy, momentarily poignant melodies occasionally recur across the disc’s 21 icy, atmospheric miniatures, intermittently enlivened by the breathy vocals of Xiomara Lougart and Yosvany Terry Cabrera’s keening saxophone. And like every Hanrahan production, the percussion section of Robbie Ameen, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Roman Diaz is worth the price of admission all by itself; absolutely no one records percussion like Hanrahan.

“Club Casino de la Playa” and “Distant Shore Dreams,” two tracks not arranged by Hanrahan, share a film noir sensibility; either would feel entirely appropriate in a David Lynch film set in Tijuana. Elsewhere, this is a Hanrahan project through and through, right down to the hazy cover photo of a lone nude woman getting jiggy with herself. It’s a good bet she’s not listening to this disc.

Originally Published