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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Kyle Motl & Rhonda Taylor - Sepulchers (Self, 2020) ****½

By Stef Gijssels

Possibly the most difficult thing in music is not to play an instrument to perfection, or to interact well in an ensemble, but to create art that offers something unique, differentiating, surprising and with a voice and perspective all of its own. 

This is what the duo of Rhonda Taylor on baritone saxophone and Kyle Motl on contrabass achieve. The title and the artwork already show that this is not a happy or joyful album, and maybe darkness and sorrow are easy emotions to inspire music, the improvisation still needs to be done with taste and with such a quality that it resonates with the listeners and triggers the same heart strings. And even stronger, that both musicians speak the same language. 

They have one single concept for the whole album, one mood that is explored in all its subtle variations for which words are lacking and which only good music manages to express. In the narrow confines of their mournful concept, both instruments form a perfect match in their deep lamenting tones, the unease and the pain, the slow howls or the desperate weeping. 

Rhonda Taylor is a soprano and baritone saxophonist from New Mexico. She is a very explorative player, often using electronics to alter the sound of her instruments. Her natural sound is dark, even on her many solo albums, of which one is called "Necropolis" with the first track called "Welcome to the Boneyard". Death and sorrow are not uncommon themes in her music. 

Kyle Motl we have reviewed before. The Californian bassist has excellent technique and daring musical ideas, and a personal style, best checked on his solo albums, of harsh musical explorations of darkness and solitude. 

Together both musicians are even better. The format gives a level of richness to their playing and depth to their expressiveness that far exceeds their solo efforts of the same moods and concepts. It seems that their natural voices find an authentic common sound on this album. 

It hurts to listen to this music, and that is a great compliment. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp