Four years elapsed before I realized that my neighbours were music makers. In 2006 I lived in Barcelona and my neighbours were Laia and Roger. They lived on the 4th floor and I was on the 5th. They had a band: Cabo San Roque. I had heard that there were reunions of musicians in the building and about people who made their own instruments using typewriters and candy boxes. However I never heard a sound and the whole story sounded a bit legendary.
And it was like this until one day, in my fourth year as a tenant in the building, I happened to come across them for the first time, on the stairs. We introduce each other, we briefly talk, they invite me to their apartment and it is then that everything becomes clear. Well, almost everything. Cabo San Roque’s musical and conceptual framework lends itself to long conversations, and of those we have had quite a few. That day they talked about the group’s early times, how they had mutated along the way –in number and philosophy-, about their desire to blend human musicians with automatic mechanical instruments. They invited me to watch their show “La Caixeta”. From that moment trying to describe or categorize their music has become impossible. That is why drafting these lines has become quite a challenge for me. When somebody asked me: “what type of music are Cabo San Roque making?” my answer inevitably was: “you’ve got to see it”. This feeling was increasing along with every new recording, new show or their collaborations with Carles Santos, Pascal Comelade, Pierre Bastien or Joan Saura. Every new project becoming harder to describe, more personal. This is why I decide to come up to the ring trying to fight a good bout even knowing that I will eventually get quite a beating.
12 rounds is a three-sided dialogue between Laia’s keyboards, Roger’s guitar and a mechanism named “Tres Tristos Trons” which plays the rhythmic part producing sounds emanating from engines, cans, combs, springs, banjo boxes and an endless number of other pieces, the whole assembled in a way as peculiar to the ear as it is to the eye. On reflection more than a dialogue it should be called a bout since punching is what is happening on stage. And I really mean serious punching.
12 rounds sounds rough and swampy, it sounds biting and restless. Dance music without being it. Evoking music but not scenic. Quite a rave conceived in a workshop with screws and metal plates falling on the floor. It is not by coincidence that Pascal Comelade has portrayed a maze of titles on the cd’s back cover. 12 rounds could easily work as a whole where the order of things does not alter the product. Laia’s left hand on the Microkorg weaves powerful basslines reminiscent of Studio One’s grooves while Roger’s electric guitar picks up the sound and legacy of the Mississippi Delta and the rhythm machine hits recycled elements adding storms to a sound occasionally close to industrial noise. It is not by chance either that Alessandro “Asso” Stefana’s studio (regular collaborator of Vinicio Capossela and in charge of the recording in this case) is called “Perpetuum Mobile”, like the famous piece by Einstürzende Neubauten. Or maybe it is by chance and at this stage of the bout I have been beaten too much and I have no clue about what is going on. And so during 45 minutes there is a mixture of obscure half tempi (Ya-ya trueno, Pas de loup), frantic disco pieces written down on pentagram (Fronton Baile Loco, Cabelludo mateu), post rock with Mexican inspiration (Un paseo queretano), a pack of winds worthy of Albert Ayler (Tres Tristos Trons), Mancini’s unrecognizable versions (Sorolls d’Hatari), homages to great masters like Joan Saura (Sesión de noche), or noisy passages like the closing piece of the record (Cartes de crochet dinamita).
Roger and Laia have signed their most particular work, valid for stage projects à la Heiner Goebbels or to knock down the walls of any rock concert hall. They have conducted the bout in their own way, without caring for which side the bets were falling, boxing with one hand and writing with the other, like Arthur Cravan. 12 round bouts are reserved to world and continental championships and this is the league where they fight. And I, for one, will continue saying “you’ve got to see it”, fully aware that any description of Cabo San Roque’s music makes me feel a little bit more stupid. K.O. once again.
Abraham Boba // August 2014