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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Eyvind Kang & Jessika Kenney - Reverse Tree (Black Truffle, 2016)

By Stef

On the fringes of the music we usually review, here is a wonderful album that merges improvisation with Asian influences and folk music, together with contemporary techniques.

The first side of the album is a long composition by Eyvind Kang, called "Thoughts On Being Exiled To The Frontier, For Lord Wei", with Hildur Guðnadóttir on electric cello, Eyvind Kang on viola, Ilan Volkov on violin, Jessika Kenney on voice and Oren Ambarchi and Stephen O'Malley on electric guitar. The music develops slowly, at a zen-like pace, creating space for sounds to resonate, to be listened at. It is minimal, with stretched tones interspersed with raindrop-like pizzi sounds, without any hurry or intensity. The end result is one of calm beauty, as if nothing needs to be happening, but just does.

On the B-Side, the composition "Elm, is penned by Jessika Kenney and has a larger band, with  Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir on cello, Eyvind Kang and Melia Watras on viola, Brittany Boulding Breeden and Michael Jinsoo Lim on violin, and Jessika Kenney and Nova Ruth on voice, with the support of Gamelan Pacifica, a gamelan ensemble. The piece starts in the same quiet way, with long horizontal development of bowed single tones and shimmering voices, which come to a quiet almost stand-still before other instruments join to weave a denser soundscape over which the voices soar in increasingly higher notes, singing a "19th century Surakarta poem (attributed to Mangkunegara IV). The poem deals with the idea of a form of knowledge achieved through deeds, as a practice and state of the heart". 

If their previous collaborations had stronger folk influences between the viola and the voice, here the endeavour has more depth, more gravitas, and despite the apparent monotony, a lot is happening with shifting tone colours and deep resonance. Lie down on the couch. Close your eyes and listen.