1. Vista I
2. Vista II
3. Vista III
4. Vista IV
5. Vista V
cd/dl on A New Wave of Jazz, June 2022
Recorded at Worm, 16 April 2021, by Vincent Denieul.
Mixed by Gonçalo Almeida. Mastered at the Sunny Side Inc. studio (Anderlecht, Belgium).
I started with the one release that had no involvement of Serries as a musician, and that s the Hydra Ensemble. This Rotterdam based quartet consists of Goncalo Almeida (double bass), Lucija Gregov (cello), Nina Hitz (cello) and Rutger Zuydervelt (electronics; he's also responsible for the label's distinct artwork). I had not had the pleasure of seeing them in concert or hearing their debut, 'Voltas'. Perhaps this is a strange line-up, so I thought, with three instruments within the same range, but their approach is quite open as far as I know these players. The double bass is mainly plucked, while the two cellos alternate between being plucked and played with a bow. The oddball here is the presence of Rutger Zuydervelt, whose electronics play an exciting role — adding rumbles of acoustic sounds, electronic textures, atmospheres, and ambiences. Within the improvised music that this music is, he part is indeed an oddball, and it brings the music to another level. Coupled with more constant plucking and strumming, which takes out some of the album's more hectic moves, the balance rocks back and forth between threatening, wild chaos and some great reflective moments, such as in 'Vista II' and 'Vista IV'. Everything is under control; the bass plucks, some uneven strumming and the electronics are a ghosty shadow; they are my favourite pieces of the record, but I enjoy them all. In terms of chaos, I liked 'Vista III' best but found it hard to say why; just a feeling, I guess. There is some excellent interaction between the four players here (the biggest group of players for these five new releases), showing they have been playing together for quite some time.
Rotterdam’s Hydra Ensemble is back with an inspired follow-up to the quartet’s debut Voltas. Featuring double bassist Gonçalo Almeida, cellists Nina Hitz and Lucija Gregov and Rutger Zuydervelt on electronics, Vistas is among the most refined new classical works of the year to date.
Put an asterisk beside that new classical reference. Zuydervelt’s contributions will push some lovers of the genre out of their collective comfort zone. The artist also known as Machinefabriek plays an outsized role, given that half the group is on the same instrument.
He’s hardly the first to add electronics to a chamber ensemble. But he does so with such understated imagination that he is a big part of what makes Hydra Ensemble stand apart.
That said, this remains a group of equals. Every contribution, throughout each of the album’s five pieces corresponds neatly with the whole. There’s not a thing out of place.
“Vista III,” for example opens with a gentle interplay between plucked bass and scraped cello. In time, Zuydervelt’s electronics add a complementary source of texture. The piece builds ever so gradually – in both intensity and volume – without ever overwhelming.
“Vista I” and “Vista IV” both showcase the impact of the ensemble’s pairing of two cellos beautifully. Hitz and Gregov deliver a stunning harmonic listening experience, here and elsewhere on the album. These are like advanced drone works, a must-listen if your exploration of that style has been limited to electronic compositions.
A point should be made about the album’s luxurious pacing. Nothing is rushed, and the performers avoid crowding one another throughout its 50 minutes. This is a recipe for success that other groups might take note of. By easing listeners through all of the beautiful complexity on display here, Hydra Ensemble makes genuinely challenging music a surprisingly easy listen.