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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Angharad Davies - Six Studies (Confront, 2014) ****

By Stef

Listening to music is probably one of the strangest things in life, and when you listen a lot, you get used to newer things, different sounds that may be off-putting to many, yet that have an unmistakeable magic for others. This is one of those albums, that, despite their obvious simplicity, of one violinist playing alone, improvising alone, offers a entrancing complexity and artistry that goes far beyond the mediocre.

Angharad Davies uses extended techniques, like springs, plastic pegs, nail files, and other objects to limit and expand the sound of her violin, yet that is by itself neither unique nor the condition for good music - often even to the contrary - yet she makes it work, by the relentless intensity her music, the repetitive quality of the phrases, that barely move from their single tone center, yet offer timbral shades and slight variations in attack, that become enchanting after a while. This is minimalism, with fragile beauty and a wonderful contrast of lightness and gravitas. She calls them "studies", and maybe that's too humble a word for the performance, because even if there is some experimenting involved, the overall sound, the control and the end result can stand on their own.

In all honesty I prefer the album to the Youtube clip presenting its launch performance.

Jennifer Allum - Live Solo At Café OTO (FMA, 2014)

This short EP or fifteen minute free download gives a performance by violinist Jennifer Allum at Café OTO in London last year. Her sound is raw and harsh compared to the violin sounds of Angharad Davies, more physical, with shorter more powerful use of the bow, jumping off the strings in repetitive figures, that change ever so slightly, rarely playing one string at a time, but creating chords and phrases, sometimes even with a folksy undertone - but don't think you can dance on this music - and using dissonance as the key ingredient to her improvisation.

You can download it here for free.