“Tombak,” percussionist Ziya Tabassian’s first release for Ambiances Magnetiques; makes its break with more “classical” style tombak playing early on, introducing rubbing and scraping sounds not often associated with it. It’s a gentle way of letting listeners know Tabassian intends to search for new facets of this well-known instrument.
“Entre nos peaux” is a fine example of this search, beginning with a series of slowly cascading drawing sounds across the head of the tombak, which gradually form into a circular and continuous scraping sound of nail on hide. Tabassian forms these wild scratch noises into a ball of pink noise, possibly using his whole palm across the head– though the exact nature of how these sounds were realized is unimportant to enjoying them. When Tabassian allows the awesome low end of the tombak to emerge again, it bursts forth as a wounded beast, rushing and powerful… charging the listener and suddenly retreating.
Perhaps the most delightful aspect of “Tombak” is the obvious care that has gone into recording and reproducing the wide dynamic range Tabassian presents. The deepest tombak rumbles practically carry with them the scent of the resonating wood from which they arise, while the lightest touch of fingernail is also apparent.
Although there is nothing wrong with “Tombak,” I do find myself wishing for more in the way of an improvisational recording from Tabassian. I suspect there is a strong element of improvisation in this album, but with the “all pieces composed by” credit, it’s difficult to be sure. For me, the process of discovering and utilizing these new sounds is most interesting and I’d appreciate being let a little closer to that source than this recording seems to allow.