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November 21, 2017
Sunday, May 17, 2015

While my guitar gently warps

Guitarist Darío Íscaro and percussionist Juan Bianchi performing live at Pista Urbana.
Guitarist Darío Íscaro and percussionist Juan Bianchi performing live at Pista Urbana.
Guitarist Darío Íscaro and percussionist Juan Bianchi performing live at Pista Urbana.
By Lorenzo Miquel
For The Herald

Musician Darío Iscaro offers exotic performance at Pista Urbana


Before the musicians were called up on stage, Mónica Lacoste — one of the owners of Pista Urbana — wrapped up her introduction by gleefully proclaiming the venue’s motto: turn off your TV and come over. A hard task to achieve on that particular evening, for the whole country was paralyzed in front of their TV sets as the superclásico went awry in one of the most shameful displays of sports-related violence.

Somehow sheltered from the ensuing social discontent, Pista Urbana’s Border Jazz cycle was about to set its second date in motion with the presentation of Córdoba-born guitarist Darío Íscaro, joined solely by percussionist Juan Bianchi.

The bold contrast between them was noticeable from the start, to say the least. While Bianchi sat cross-legged and barefoot in front of his tabla drums, Íscaro opted for the traditional comfort of a chair, a necessary trait in order to manipulate with his feet the five-piece army of pedal effects around him.

Resting on a colourful stool by his side was an eye-catching Korg Mini Kaoss Pad, a touch-sensitive dynamic effect processor that is usually seen as part of DJ setups. A daring blend indeed. But is it possible to combine the traditional beats of Indian percussion with effect-induced guitar sound-warpings without turning the whole thing into a messy pastiche?

As it turned out, it is — provided that Íscaro is the captain of such a surreal musical vessel.

With a short yet concise setlist, the two-man combo delivered a surprisingly balanced interaction between digital and analog worlds, marked by the cool-headed, spot-on combination between clean guitar sounds and space-like textures.

Starting with Piquete de Andrómeda, the duo’s repertoire mainly swayed between compositions from Íscaro’s latest work, Ánima fugitiva, and tracks from his trio’s self-titled 2010 album.

Upon Piquete de Andrómeda’s conclusion, the evening progressed with Ciranda, a song that — though written for the trio setup — was shrewdly adapted for Thursday’s setting. Bianchi’s playing managed to perfectly replace the original drumbeat, embellishing the song with the swift movements of his fingers on the dayan drum (unfortunately, the bigger bayañ drum fell a little short volume-wise and was only clearly audible during full-palm strokes).

Throughout the show, Íscaro’s two main weapons of mass-interaction were the aforementioned Korg Mini K-P and a pedal that shot ambient-like synth textures. Their usage was measured and precise, adding dashes of colour to a playing style that shines on its own. Íscaro leaves aside the guitar pick in favour of fingerpicking, a traditional jazz guitar technique made famous by talents such as Wes Montgomery. Though hard to master, it delivers an unparalleled warmth to the notes. When correctly applied, it allows the musician to mix chord structures with agile bursts of guitar licks.

Íscaro’s capabilities were made evident during the performance of Vimanas I and II, where he displayed a clever use of arpeggios and chord variations, intertwined with some fast-paced legato phrases. In other words, fingerpicking done right.

His taste for Indian culture is made furthermore evident by his choosing of a title, “With Juan, we often compose thinking of vimanas (mythological Indian flying machines that were able to travel to other worlds),” he said.

It was during the Vimanas stretch that the venue’s most cherishable attribute (the intimacy it generates due to its small size) turned against Íscaro’s performance. What started as a low, overlapping murmur coming from the back made its way to the front row, throwing the guitarist out of his zone and forcing the interruption of the performance in order to call for silence.

The evening’s last two pieces were Bu Bus Blues (where Íscaro’s legato shone again amid an impeccable use of his loop pedal) and Embotellamiento.

Finishing the performance on a whimsical note, Íscaro proclaimed “now let’s go have some wine!” right before exiting the stage. Just a few blocks down from the venue — on Paseo Colón Avenue — a crestfallen caravan of soccer fans marched home.

It seemed that, once again, sports had stolen music’s thunder, this time for all the wrong reasons. Not many people were left once the lights turned on at Pista Urbana: only some tourists and at least one unashamed sport-atheist (yours truly).

Íscaro’s concert thus fell into understandable oblivion but for a few it was a musical pearl of sorts, shining faintly in the dark, turbulent waters of social dismay.


@lorenzomiquel

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