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Diego Souto

Ciudad de Grises + Gnosis Five 2006 CD $15.
label: Parásito de Luz

Pablo Gignoli - bandoneón and bandoneón samples
Fernando Juárez - drums and drum samples
Catalina Maguire - voice
Guilherme Darisbo - samples
AureliaX - samples
Sebastian Rosenfeldt - bass
Oni - voices
Diego Souto - Stick®, guitars and samples

For his new release, Argentine composer and Stickist Diego Souto has presented two decidedly different recording projects on one CD.

Ciudad de Grises is a collection of 13 songs that range from tango-tinged electronica to intricate prog tunes, from full band rock vocals to solo tangos a la Baroque keyboard. Souto's roles as composer, arranger, performer and producer are inseparable. In that sense he has created a work of art that doesn't present "performances" as much as "constructions" out of of complex and imaginative parts.

At the center of it all is Souto's 10-string Stick, played with remarkable precision and confidence. His Stick strings are recorded brightly and bell-like in all registers, and every note is clearly struck with distinct stereo separation and placement. It's a striking presentation of The Stick as two instruments, tightly interconnected by one mind (imagine listening to a skilled pianist where each hand's part is panned a bit to one side). He explores the extremes of pitch found on Emmett's 10-String Classic™ tuning to great effect. Perhaps even more striking is the marriage of these sounds with the bandoneón played by Pablo Gignoli. In many ways the instruments are perfect sonic foils for each other - the soaring, stretching reedy cousin to the accordion tenses the music while Diego peppers it with deep bass hits and dancing percussive flourishes.

An excellent production job reveals the care Souto has taken in assembling a perfect sound from each perfect instrument for the moment. His Stick artistry extends into the sonic realm as well, such as the electric bass in "Asíntota" that seamlessly morphs into a big, chunky classic Stick bass sound and back again. Who's doing what isn't nearly as important as what's being heard. This tonal ambiguity seems to extend to every sound at some point. Are those processed real drums or samples? Stick or guitar? Is that a synth or a voice or the bandoneón? Who cares, just listen to what it's doing!

This is a really fun record to take in with headphones. Everything moves around, from filtered drum samples to reverberating strings, sliding between an up-front two-dimensional space and deep resonating chasms. This kind of animated mixing can sometimes become gratuitous, but here it all flows beautifully, so much so that it's hard to imagine just listening to one of these pieces individually. In his arrangements, Souto is patient, but he never lingers around too long on one idea, one chord or even one song - they're all quite short.

Most of these pieces are originals, but Souto throws in a snippet by tango luminary Vicente Greco, whose humerous "Rodriguez Peña" is the perfect setup for the title track. "Ciudad de Grises" sparkles, churns and rocks. This is driving anthemic prog, with a catchy melody, a powerful drum track (Fernando Juárez), and layer upon layer of perfectly integrated flourishes from Stick, guitar and samples. Other composition credits go to Juárez, Gignoli and vocalist Catalina Maguire.

The end of Ciudad's 38 minutes comes all too soon, but this CD is not over yet...

Gnosis Five, Repertorio Guitar Craft arreglado para Stick soloista, is a collection of five Robert Fripp compositions arranged for solo Stick by Souto. The contrast between this music and the material on Ciudad de Grises is stark, and it's to the benefit of each set of tunes that they are presented separately. These short pieces are all about controlling a singular, frenetic, angular energy. The interplay between pairs of thematic lines is captivating, and the music flawlessly executed. It proves that Souto isn't just someone who knows how to make it happen in the studio. Diego can play!

review by Greg Howard

Ciudad de Grises
1. NeoTango Suite #1.1 (Souto)
2. Mil Voces (Souto/Juárez/Maguire)
3. Cidade Baixa (Souto)
4. NeoTango Suite #2 (Souto/Giglioni)
5. NeoTango Suite #3 (Souto)
6. Lo que construimos fuera nos devora (Souto)
7. Lo que construimos dentro nos libera (Souto)
8. Puerto de Palos (Souto)
9. Aquel que teniendo alas se arroja sobre lo visible (Souto)
10. Rodriguez Peña (Greco)
11. Ciudad de Grises (Souto/Juárez/Maguire)
12. NeoTango Suite #5 (Souto)
13. Asíntota (Souto)

Gnosis Five
14. Third Relation (Fripp)
15. Calliope (Fripp)
16. Intergallactic Boogie Express (Fripp)
17. Darts (Fripp)
18. Driving Force (Fripp)

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