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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lisa Ullén & Nina De Heney feat. Okkyung Lee - Look Right (LJNaxos, 2013) ****

By Stef 

The first track reminds me of Charlie Haden's "Song For The Whales", on which a deeply moaning arco bass plays high-pitched gliding overtones - the description may sound contradictory but it isn't - and you're drawn in the wonderful world of deeply evocative music. 

The three female artists, Lisa Ullén on piano, Nina De Heney on bass and Okkyung Lee on cello make this a gut-piercing performance, full of intensity like striking a raw nerve. 

On the second piece they start playing with modular interaction and rhythms, with bits and pieces of sounds colliding against each other, seemingly disorganised yet fitting well together in a strange harmonic chaos. 

The third track is started by the bass, playing on the strings and the instrument's body, with the piano adding quick and varied rolls of notes, joined by the cello's dissonant discourse, forcing the piano to more energetic playing, Cecil Taylor-like, using the full breadth of the keyboard, then remarkably the cello releases the tension and the two other instruments follow suit. 

On "Easel 2", the arco strings are having a ball, first in the lower, then the higher regions, echoing and counteracting each other, shifting intensity between slow to absolute frenzy, with the piano adding chords sparingly, like a soothing force. 

"2 Tales" starts with plucked strings on the bass, offering a low pace repetitive dynamic, with the cello, also pizzi, and the piano, also adding touches and accents on the strings, maintaining the slow pace and the granular texture. "Icon Untitled" offers some 'real' piano-playing, on the keys, bringing a lot of substance and density to the album, changing texture and power, to be taken over in the second part by the bass and cello, offering drama and tension at the same time. 

"Utopian Sigh" is again a quiet piece, with precise and subtle interaction between the three instruments, which draw sketchy brush strokes to form a balanced an open canvas, an almost organic piece ending in the most faint sustained high tones, sad and fragile and sensitive. 

Even if at times hard to get into, the music has its own aesthetic, with a good variety of sonic texture and character.