Pontius Pilots
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Pontius Pilots

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Apr
25
Pontius Pilots @ Sonarchy on 90.3 KEXP.org

Seattle, Washington, USA

Seattle, Washington, USA

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Victor Noriega goes back to his roots on Alay, his second album, to play traditional Filipino songs and originals based on Filipino music. He was awarded a grant from the Jack Straw Artist Support Program to arrange an album of Filipino tunes in 2005, and this is the result.

Filipino music has absorbed European and American influences into indigenous sounds. And while these selections dwell strongly on the former side, Noriega adds jazz harmony to give the music pith and depth. His sense of time is sure and confident, and his vision never strays from a well-defined framework. The Seattle-based pianist works with long-time band members Willie Blair (bass) and Eric Eagle (drums), who help him weave a tantalising web.

Noriega is a lyrical pianist. He picks each note for its melody and extends thematic ideas without straying far from the core. He stretches out on "Pandangguhan," a pirouetting tune that was raised on classical music. He veers away from the upbeat to slow the momentum and inject some exquisite introspective passages. He showcases this side on the elegant movement of "Bayan Ko." His notes are spare and open, and the rhythm section is emphatic, even where Eagle uses the cymbal for accent. In short, a compelling performance that rises to a resounding climax as Noriega emphasises the melody through resounding dynamics.

Noriega contributed the title tune, "Alay," which means "offering." He dices the largely sparse piece into four parts, using an intro and a closing segment. Another original, "Kuya," has more impact. He rides a light groove, the lithe dance flecked by percussion to give it absorbing buoyancy.

- Jerry D'Souza, All About Jazz - All About Jazz


"e.R.DoN's beats sound more like they came from a small, loosely tuned drum set with a woodblock than from a computer. He doesn't create monster beats that mash four rap songs at once. He molds subtle yet overwhelming pieces that form a sort of one-man jazz orchestration that is wholly organic but still rooted in electronica. Every sample is created from an original source and is sometimes distorted, allowing techno bleeps to blend with bells and dissonance to sweep into beauty…"

- Rob E. Miller, Seattle Sound Magazine - Seattle Sound Magazine


"...ER Don has been recording with the Truckasauras guys lately, straight from his Akai MPC to their analog tapes. If his set last night is any indication, that record will be full of brainy instrumentals built from jazzy loops, clean beats, odd beeps and gurgles, and subtle hints of orchestration. Live, the guy hunches over that MPC, tapping pads and triggering samples, pausing occasionally from his rhythmic swaying to scroll through his (imaginably vast) library of sounds. ER Don's deeply musical compositions, and their constituent organic loops, kill that tired, old argument that all electronic producers do is push buttons..."

- Eric Grandy, the Stranger - The Stranger


Imaginative ideas flow like water from University of Washington graduate and former Marc Seales student Noriega, who won Earshot's 2005 Emerging Artist of the Year award.

On his second album, "Alay," Noriega trains his imagination on his Filipino heritage, applying a smart variety of strategies to traditional songs.

"Pandangguhan," "Bayan Ko" and "Kuya" suggest classical influences, including the whimsical question marks of Erik Satie. "Saan Ka Man Naroroon" and "Maalaala Mo Kaya" combine skipping traditional rhythms with flat-out swing. "Harana" sounds like a slow-motion Cuban air and "Bahay Kubo" explores the dissonant, haunting arena of layered electronics with a fixed backbeat.

Noriega is a bit like a young Dave Brubeck. His music has a friendly, good-natured feel, no matter where he takes it, and his approach to crossing cultural boundaries is fresh.

- Paul de Barros, Seattle Times
- Seattle Times


Discography

The Journal of Popular Noise Vol 1/Issue 6

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Bio

Pithy clusters of piano notes pool and quickly evaporate. A spare clatter of brushed cymbals and cracked snares hang like bone jewelry from the baby grand's lid. It all makes for a warm and woozy affair until a single insistent note pushes forth with doppler-like precision. The drums tighten form while clipped guitar tones surface and put flesh to the bone. It is an exhilarating and fleeting moment of fusion and confusion. It is also the kind of moment that Pontius Pilots conjure with ease. The Seattle-based duo of pianist Victor Noriega and producer Robert Nelson (aka eR.DoN) explore improv jazz forms imbued with inscrutable MPC-triggered samples. Lushly recorded and deftly performed, the resultant mix is a beautiful marriage of reason and caprice.

Victor Noriega has developed a distinct personal style that is both inventive and adventurous... his piano playing is crisp and articulate, and his compositions fuse Classical and Filipino folk elements with a jazz aesthetic. One moment his playing is reminiscent of the intricate contrapuntal lines in a Bach fugue, and the next the percussive dissonance of Bartok's music for piano... Listening to Noriega perform is like hearing the pieces of a puzzle come together into a satisfying whole.

e.R.DoN composes music using midi-sequences and original samples. It is electronic music, performed live using an Akai MPC 2000xl. Some of these samples are distorted and sequenced to such a degree that they sound nothing like the original and then at other times eR.DoN lets the live instruments flow purely and unhindered through his music. These ever changing juxtapositions give eR.DoN’s music an almost kinetic energy, which is filled with complexity and thoughtful nuances. The music shifts and teeters between traditional and more experimental jazz elements, but it is all seamlessly brought together by eR.DoN's skill in composing the electronic underpinnings. The result is a warmth and depth of sound that is not usually associated with this genre.