CD review: Sergio Merce’s be nothing

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First published in the Guardian on 8 September, 2016

Sergio Merce: be nothing
(Wandelweiser)

The cover is plain white with grey sans-serifs and on the inside sleeve, across from a dilated monochrome image of snow or possibly sand, are the lower-case words: “why are we frightened to be nothing?” Which would normally set me squirming except that it is all classic Wandelweiser — a select group of composers and performers whose common aesthetic fixates on acutely sparse, quiet, slow and subtly shaded sounds. The hour-long title track (the disc’s only track) for analogue synthesiser, microtonal saxophone and electronics by Sergio Merce, an Argentinian saxophonist, often dissolves into long stretches of silence or pauses for whole minutes to consider a single groggy drone. It goes further into ambient territory than most Wandelweiser releases and I can imagine yoga studios finding good use for it, but it is definitely not nothing. The overtones are whispered but listen closely and they’re incredibly lustrous; gentle palpitations in the bass keep nudging the momentum forwards, unhurried but always on the move.