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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Matt Turner - Virion Impasto (Icker, 2015) ****

By Stef

The first time I heard an album with cellist Matt Turner, was on Ken Schaphorst's wonderful "Indigenous Technology", then some years later on the equally wonderful "To The Moon" with Jean-Marc Foltz and Bill Carrothers, two albums on which the cello's lyricism adds a great quality to the beautiful compositions.

In 1999 he released his first solo cello album "The Mouse That Roared", on which the instrument is still used in a very conventional way, bowed and very lyrical, even if he dares color outside the lines from time to time.

Now, on his second solo album, Turner overthrows all conventions, beginning by stripping the hairs of his bow, and playing the strings with the naked wood of his bow. Second, he does no effort at all to sound lyrical, quite to the contrary, his bowing results in dark, sometimes industrial sounds that resonate minimally yet have deep impact, sometimes even animal growls that unleash the most hidden side of the instrument, or repetitive washing sounds of waves coming out of the depths of its wooden body, or even some noise of basic organic 'humanness', you can wonder what it is or what it sounds like, but it is abstract and full of life, full of surprises, even if all the sounds are muted with a dryness that takes out all the fluidity that you associate the instrument with.

You cannot compare his playing to Okkyung Lee, that other iconoclast of the instrument, because Turner is not violent or exuberant or emotionally expressive, no, his approach is incredibly disciplined and focused, played with calm determination to bring other things to life than the instrument has ever done before.

You will need very open ears to appreciate the other sounds of the cello.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.