Review: Donoval & Fiala – INTERSTAT (Canigou, Sep 27)

Though it’s an otherwise pleasant and effervescent opening track to Adam Badí Donoval and Jakub Fiala’s debut collaboration, beneath the surface of “I” lurks a nagging, slightly disconcerting tension, helped along by an out of place tone here, a dissonant guitar note there, etc. Though freely improvised, like the rest of INTERSTAT, this hint of discordance is no accident. It manifests in nearly all of the eight sections of the tape, snaking through the foundational industrial rumble of “II” to the strange, isolating distance present in “III” to the barest semblance of inharmoniousness in the drones of “IV”—and if I haven’t yet proven to you all how well I can count, we arrive at side B with “V”, where the looping synth piddles and new age electronics that had asserted themselves as crucial elements become less integrated. It’s like the unspoken formula developed via the duo’s interactions splits open and calls attention to its own parts, moving that distance I mentioned earlier from the space between listener and music to within the music itself, resulting in some of the album’s most uncanny tracks. On “VI”, the electronica sticks sullenly to the edges, and the effect is dark and spectral, something that’s explored further on the rest of the album. Having been unfamiliar with both Donoval and Fiala until now, INTERSTAT was a wonderful surprise, and is likely to appeal to fans of both straightforward ambient/drone music and more abstract improvisation in equal measure.