Music Reviews

Artist: Joana Gama and Luís Fernandes
Title: At the Still Point of the Turning World
Format: CD + Download
Label: Room40
Joana Gama and Luís Fernandes have been collaborating since 2012 and if “At The Still Point Of The Turning World” is any indication, it’s one of those musical connections that fits into place beautifully. What they offer up here is a short but perfectly formed collection of pieces blending natural small ensemble orchestra sounds with the deftest of electronic processing into something that must surely be considered a prime example of the best of cutting-edge classical from today.

Opening piece “Neither Flesh Nor Fleshless” is a stark and bold offering, beginning and end with a steady ominous thumping which is first joined then abandoned by shrill sustained string sounds. From the pizzicato strings that begin “Perpetual Possibility” things get a little more layered, but the sombre tension persists throughout the slow crescendo of piano and fantastically slow string unfolding.

After two relatively natural-sounding bits of modern classical, “The Pattern Is Movement” adds a whole new electronic aspect to proceedings, shifting the slow progressions into synthesized and processed sounds to which the traditional orchestra only very subtly contributes at first. This time when the full orchestra re-emerges it feels strangely pastoral by comparison, since everything is relative. “Through The Vibrant Air” has an almost inverse approach, opening initially as a piece of more conventional avant garde (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) classical before devolving into electronic clicks and glitches.

Final two pieces “Lucid Stillness” and “Shaft Of Sunlight” are slightly sparser, piano-led affairs with an exquisite sense of control and balance in which the electronic arrangements are truly unified with the orchestral elements, the former being more of a fixed melancholy, the latter leading towards a form of audible sunrise that ends the album far more optimistically than it began.

This is one of those releases that makes you stand up and pay attention to it, not through any brash or loud characteristics but because the sheer, almost luxuriant quality of it really draws you in.

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