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Motions Vol.I

Francisco Mela - drums

Shinya Lin - piano, prepared piano

  • Bandcamp

Downbeat August 2022

An extended improvisation in two parts, Motions Vol. 1 showcases drummer Francisco Mela’s dynamic movements and young up-and-coming pianist Shinya Lin’s cerebral yet richly textured lines. There’s no doubt Lin was influenced by Mela well before the two even stepped into the studio to record this album. Lin recently graduated from Berklee, where Mela, a mainstay on the Boston jazz scene, currently teaches. In this debut collaboration, Mela and Lin are equally matched and both visionary in their own right.

Mela’s charismatic and uninhibited drums complement Lin’s introspective approach to piano and prepared piano. As a result, the duo’s collaboration is expansive and cinematic in scope. “Part I” begins like a noir film, with dark, languorous beats, industrial sounds on prepared piano and dramatic, punctuated piano notes. Lin’s improvisational style is analytical yet unrestrained. He moves deftly between organic melodies and experimental tone poems, while Mela’s feverish drums give way to sheets of sound and frenetic pulses. Just as they approach entropy, they come to a halt, taking a collective breath before Mela’s guttural vocals call on them to reset and recenter on a more focused and angular improvisation.

The range of textures and motifs that Mela and Lin explore in “Part II’’ is even more diverse. It gradually advances to more muscular uptempo percussion and angular melodies.

—Ivana Ng

SuqidCo - The Suqid's Ear

A departure for Cuban-American drummer Francisco Mela, known for his work with John Scofield, Motions Vol. 1 is a two-part session of free improvisation. It's also more directed towards the concepts of Taiwanese-American pianist Shinya Lin, who draws creative influence from John Cage and Cecil Taylor. 

Properly titled since the textures expressed by Mela's drum kit and Linn's prepared piano are almost constantly in motion, only a few silent interludes precede Lin's quavering additionally vocalized yells, yodels or replicating bird squawks. While Cage's ideas of allowing some musical elements to be determined by the players are openly expressed in free improvisation like this one, Taylor's influence is more pronounced. Propelling contrasting dynamics as he stops and starts ragged expositions, Lin's jagged clips on the piano's highest-pitched keys are almost pure Taylor. Still his equivalent forays towards soundboard echoes while key stopping and juddering metal implements on the piano's prepared internal strings confirm his individuality. Sympathetic throughout, Mela's response to the pianist's inner string strumming or metronomic patterning is suitably laid back. Rim shots, snare accents and cymbal clanks are common, while the emphasis on wood, skin and wire from both players confirms the foreground acoustic properties of their instruments.

During the intense and protracted "Part 2", the stop-time continuum that propels the piece becomes faster and louder with staccato keyboard runs and prominent percussion drags and ruffs emphasized. Shudders and vibrating patterns from both are repeated as the piano's wooden frame is vibrated along with metronomic key shifts. Conflating dual dynamics, emphasized drum slaps and brush wisps confirm the ending. That's the ending not the end, as Vol. 1 in the title suggests. Curiosity remains as to what the two will create on Vol. 2.

—Ken Waxman 

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