August 22, 2023
Una Ofrenda A La Ausencia - Camila Nebbia
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPRSS023
Location: United States
Release Date: August 25, 2023
Media: compact disc or digital download
There is usually a path to every record that is different for each listener, especially in music of the cultural margin where album releases are not announced with million dollar promotional campaigns. In the case of Camila Nebbia, our particular path starts with Tomomi Kubo & Ferrán Besalduch, who released an improvisational album, Gyotaku (Call It Anything Records, 2022), featuring Ms. Kubo on the somewhat eclectic electronic instrument, Ondes Martenot, and Mr. Besalduch on saxophone. Gyotaku was one of the favorite albums of 2022 as complied by the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House. In pursuit of more music of this kind, we next listened to another duet of Ondes Martenot and saxophone, Polycephaly (Tripticks Tapes, 2022), this one featuring Ms. Kubo paired with Camila Nebbia. In short order, we arrived at the present album, Una Ofrenda A La Ausencia, an album of saxophone solos by Ms. Nebbia.
Alternatively, we could construct a different path that led us to Una Ofrenda A La Ausencia. This one starts in 2019 with the launch of the Relative Pitch Records Solo Series, which provides improvising musicians a platform to demonstrate their creative skills in a solo setting. Many of these records feature artists who are not especially well established, at least in the United States. In that respect, the series, curated by label proprietor Kevin Reilly, serves as an introduction to many artists new to our ears. As is the case with Una Ofrenda A La Ausencia, many though not all of the releases in this series feature the saxophone.
Regardless of the path taken, eventually we arrive at the album and we listen to the music. We are more or less completely ignorant of the background of Ms. Nebbia. Her bio states that she hails from Buenos Aires and is based in Berlin, Germany. It further describes her as a multidisciplinary artist who "layers her practice through the creation and destruction of archival memory". We don't exactly know what this means but we are overly fond of libraries, which are important if imperfect centers for archival memory. We hope no libraries were destroyed in the creation of this album. In any case, we take the music at face value. The collection of songs is described with the title Una Ofrenda A La Ausencia or An Offering to Absence. It is true that solo playing is an exercise performed in the absence of collaborators, including beloved collaborators. These songs then are an oblation to those not present.
The musical expression of the saxophone on this album is complete, a self-contained whole. It does not lack for accompaniment. Even as the title prods us to imagine the kind of music an absent partner in a duet might add to her playing, we find no need for an additional voice. The saxophone fills the musical space in which it lives.
The titles of the various tracks invoke absence with examples like Everything Erases, On the Function of Oblivion, Some Memory Gaps Are Left Empty, Be And Disappear, Disappear And Be and Offering to the Void. With such a variety of ideas from which to select, we can't go wrong choosing one to continue forward with this review. Let us choose the function of oblivion. One might suppose that the function of oblivion is obvious, namely providing relief at the end of a life of suffering. This music, however, does not conform to obvious expectations. The music is real, present and alive. Perhaps, the function of oblivion on this album is instead palliative only in that it creates a space that can be filled by music.
Musicians who are interested in defining themselves, at least in the form that they occupy at the present point in time, through a solo performance, should have the opportunity to share the message they have cultivated with their instrument. This album allows Camila Nebbia to communicate what she has learned through the saxophone. As she disregards certain traditional approaches to the instrument, she embraces a broad, living tradition of expression through the solo saxophone. In as much as a record is a document of archival memory, she creates a new entry while she destroys only the possibility of the empty space no longer unoccupied.
- Camila Nebbia (tenor saxophone, spoken word, FX) (website)