Neil Leonard: Mil Maneras
In his follow-up to For Kounellis, Neil Leonard packs more music into Mil Maneras's twenty-two minutes than most artists do an entire album. In contrast to the sound design of the earlier release, where Leonard blends his saxophone playing and live electronics with samples of Jannis Kounellis's twenty-three church bells, Mil Maneras centers on the composer's through-composed works for guitar. But in a manner reminiscent of For Kounellis, the soundworld of the EP is liberally expanded upon by augmenting Oren Fader's virtuosic guitar playing with electronics and, on two of its eight tracks, spoken text. The recording features three Leonard compositions, the two-part title track, the five-part “Interiority,” and the concluding “Vitrales.”
Created for a mixed media installation with artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons for the Dak'Art Biennale de L'Art Africain Contemporain, Senegal in 2004, the title work was presented in an abandoned textile factory where video projections and sound were installed amidst dormant machinery. The ethereal opening section centers on electronic textures designed to evoke the ghosts of workers who once toiled within the space, to which are added rhythms intended to suggest factory machines operating within the textile shop, while a dramatic change in style transpires when the second part is given entirely over to Fader's elegant acoustic fingerpicking.
A five-part suite created for a permanent installation on an Italian mountaintop, the 2003 work “Interiority” opens with both Fader's picking and Leonard's electronics in play, the brooding combination of which evokes the impression of a nocturnal excursion. In alternating between Fader's solo playing, recitations by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons and Benedetta Piantella Simeonidis, and Leonard's spectral scene-painting, “Interiority” becomes an exercise in stimulation for the listener.
The longest track at seven minutes, “Vitrales” (1999/2003) showcases Fader to the greatest degree. With the guitarist's playing buoyed by timba rhythms Leonard heard in Cuba, the piece registers as the most spontaneous-sounding and organic of the three. Part of the reason for that might have to do with the fact that though parts of it were drafted using computer software designed by Leonard, the final version of its was crafted by hand with the guitar in his lap. It's a bravura performance by Fader, who deftly alternates between fast and slow passages.
Though Mil Maneras is very much a Neil Leonard release, it's fitting that Fader's name appears on the cover alongside Leonard's (he even refers to him as his collaborator for the recordings). Nowhere is the composer's debt to the guitarist more apparent than on “Vitrales,” though it's hardly the only such instance of such on the release.