Neither/Nor Records

Carlo Costa’s Acustica, Strata (n/n 004) 



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Carlo Costa’s thirteen-piece ensemble Acustica is dedicated to exploring a wide array of timbres and textures with the use of acoustic instruments. The ensemble focuses on performing Carlo’s compositions which make use of a variety of types of notation ranging from traditional to graphic, along with utilizing improvisation to varying degrees and in disparate ways. For this ensemble Carlo picked some of his closest collaborators along with musicians who share his sensitivity toward space and sound.

“The title of this piece refers to the layers of sedimentary rock and soil, known as strata (singular: stratum), which can be observed as horizontal stripes of different colored or differently structured material in cliffs, river banks or in excavations. In this piece the idea was to utilize layers of sound in different combinations ranging from spare single layers to densely stacked multiple layers while retaining a level of transparency throughout. The recurring material is presented in different contexts and each time takes a different place in the layers creating the effect of a change of perspective in the aural space.” - Carlo Costa


Kyungmi Lee - flute, piccolo flute

Joe Moffett - trumpet

Ben Gerstein - trombone

Dan Peck - tuba

Jonathan Moritz - tenor and soprano saxophones

Nathaniel Morgan - alto saxophone

Jean-Brice Godet - clarinet, bass clarinet

Miranda Sielaff - viola

Todd Neufeld - acoustic guitar

Jesse Stacken - piano

Sean Ali - double bass

Pascal Niggenkemper - double bass

Carlo Costa - percussion

Recorded live at IBeam, Brooklyn on May 20th, 2014 by Jon Rosenberg. Mixed by Nathaniel Morgan. Mastered by Jim Clouse. All music by Carlo Costa. Artwork and design by Carlo Costa.

Release date: November 1, 2015


Sun Ship

“Comme souvent dans ce genre d'oeuvre très marquées par la musique contemporaine, c'est la spatialisation qui apporte la puissance à Strata ; la clarinette basse répond aux cymbales frottées comme un cristal précieux de l'autre côté du canal, la trompette s'instille au mileu, la guitare lui répond. Strata est conçu comme une spirale extrêmement élaborée qui a l'aspect d'une vis sans fin, on se retrouve à la fin au point où l'on était au début, non sans avoir visité bon nombre de climat et de sensations. C'est le propre des voyages immobiles, certes, mais celui-ci est très intense. Strata est un disque complexe, intense, mais surtout organique. On est tenté de dire sensuel tant il est garni de concentration et d'effleurements fugaces. On s'y abandonne avec délice.” (May 19, 2016)


“Das von Carlo Costa ins Leben gerufene New Yorker Label Neither/Nor Records hat auf der doch orchestralen Platte Strata eine sehr empfehlenswerte Arbeit eingespielt. Dieser Titel bezieht sich auf verschiedenfärbige, unterschiedlich strukturierte Schichten von Sedimentgestein. Die sorgfältige Auswahl der Instrumente und die noch sorgfältigere Auswahl der Beteiligten wie auch langjährige KollegInnen Costa sind unmittelbar in dem feinen Zusammenspiel fassbar. Man muss also eigentlich nicht darauf hinweisen, das die InterpretInnen dieser Platte auch komponieren und großartige ImprovisatorInnen sind. Die Musik dreht sich knappe 44 Minuten lang vermehrt oder ausgespart um eine Wurzel, die immer wieder von einem oder meheren Instrumenten aufgegriffen wird. Die Septime/Sekund h und c wird des Öfteren im Unisono der Streicher hörbar, quasi wie ein zweisilbiges Wort, der Kern. Die Musik atmet, aber lässt zugleich nicht los – und geht weiter. Expressionistisch bildhaft erinnert Strata mich an Filmmusik des film noir, z.B. Werke von Alfred Hitchcock. Es webt sich ein stetes Netz, die Aufmerksamkeit bleibt, auch ohne die DirigentIn, vor Augen. Die Katze sucht in der Schachtel nach der Schlange und singt ... Sehr, sehr feine Musik also. Empfehlung!” (April 2016)

Downtown Music Gallery

“The name of this disc and one long piece is called “Strata”, which refers to layers of rock and soil. This ensemble also deals with layers of sound. Each layer or sub-group is carefully constructed and placed. This disc was recorded live at I-Beam in Brooklyn and the sound is clean and warm. The sounds often simmer or sizzle and rustle like the wind moving the trees. The use of space and silence is well-handled here with each group going and going, sounding as if this is being conducted or directed. Bowed cymbals, breath-like horns, ultra-subtle strings all take their time to unfold and hover. Eventually several layers, like those eerie strings and horns, sail in and move around one another in almost hypnotic way. The overall sound is much closer to modern chamber music and superbly captured and balanced. Consistently fascinating.” (April 14, 2016)

The Wire

Layers of sedimentary rock and soil, viewed in cross-section, inspired percussionist and composer Carlo Costa to conceive Strata, a 45 minute excavation of texture and timbre, recorded live at Brooklyn’s Ibeam performance space in 2014. Costa and 12 other acoustic instrumentalists gently sift through the sonic shingle, which is thinly scattered or banked in more densely compounded layers. Overall Strata has the open-cast feel of a guided improvisation, an air of being loosely coordinated rather than a close-knit composition. Its structuring is obvious nonetheless: motifs recur, surfacing in different voices, jutting from a variety of contexts, helping to bond more elusive or abstracted material into a coherent and attractive form. Delicate acoustic guitar figures carry as much weight in the mix as double bass, trombone, trumpet or tenor sax. That carefully maintained balance and clarity suits the simplicity of the underlying idea. The result is satisfying music, worth returning to.” (March 1, 2016)

Free Jazz Blog

“Carlo Costa’s website states that the ultimate result of the piece would be to create “the effect of a change of perspective in the aural space.” I think that Costa and the musicians involved were largely successful in doing so; listening to it is like occupying a palace of sound, in which the floors and staircases are constantly shifting, and doors that you intended to go through disappear, only to reappear in other places entirely. However, there is never a sense of chaos or turbulence - the movements here are glacial, deliberate, and frequently imperceptible. For a piece that utilizes thirteen musicians, it’s surprisingly minimalistic. The emotions and sensations that it conjures up, on the other hand, are immense.” (February 14, 2016)


“Le souci du détail dans chaque phase, chaque couche (souffle, murmure, frottement…) est passionnant à découvrir, à l’image de la pochette, qui peut donner le torticolis mais qui est représentative de l’univers musical d’un groupe qu’il faudra suivre avec intérêt.” (January 1, 2016)

NYC Jazz Record

“Costa’s dexterous arranging skills are confirmed in the composition’s final minutes. Following Kyungmi Lee’s upsetting piccolo shrills and factory-whistle-like clangor from the reeds, Jesse Stacken’s relaxed, half-speed piano chording soothes the narrative back to serenity. As he plays, there’s the sudden realization that this leitmotif has been expressed in variants throughout the piece. Stacken’s final notes explicitly link to the original theme and associate the exposition and conclusion as effectively as a reusable plastic storage bag is resealed.” (January 1, 2016)

Vital Weekly

“There is around the thirty-minute break quite a dramatic climax, noisy even, which added to the tension this piece has. Sometimes this tension is high and forceful, but it can also be likewise be small, quiet and creepy. This is not something to put on and play while doing something else. Sit down and listen: that is what this music requires.” (January 1, 2016)