Don’t let the initial softness of João Ricardo‘s new release on the Test Tube netlabel, Stepping Stone, lull you into any sense of comfort. Fissures will strike, and small noises will make themselves known, in rhythmic patterns that are more verbal than metrical, more about the insinuation of life than about effecting momentum.
Those early, subtle swells, given texture from an economical employment of static, eventually make way for a suite-like, long-form, half-hour performance (MP3). Later in the piece, alternate techniques will be brought to be bear on string instruments, heard in looping patterns of loosely strung guitar, then smatterings of rough percussion, then dark and claustrophobic scratchy explorations, before closing with an almost soothing (key word: almost) stretch of minimalist sound design.
Stepping Stone is, admirably, a single-song release, which is a format particularly suitable to netlabels, where music is made available for free download and distribution by the musician and releasing organization. The compression of the musical experience into one, individual, standalone track adds to the immediacy of the experience, and thus to the sense of unmediated communication between artist and audience.
Ricardo, recording as OCP (or Operador de Cabine Polivalente), isn’t here just stringing together diverse modes. For example, those loose strings connect to the rough percussion thanks to the manner by which the analog source material fits into the electro-acoustic setting, and the subsequent claustrophobia is impressive precisely because of the exit of the more organic sounds that had appeared earlier. Like any successful suite, this one is marked by narrative intent, one that compels and rewards close listening.