Commissioned by Gaudeamus and premiered in November 2016, this is Sligter and Bulsink’s second collaboration, and it’s an unusual blend for sure. Across a forty-minute work, divided into five very uneven parts simply lettered ‘A’ to ‘E’, there’s a fusion or at times a counterpoint between abstract drones and sustained acoustic textures, and crooner-like bluesy vocal work that stands often in isolation, with clear English-language lyrics, like freeform beat poetry without the beat.
On paper it ought not to work, yet in practice it does, drawing such starkness from the subtly uncomfortable soundscaping and the sorrowful and reflective voice work. In longest track “D” you are pinned to your seat for sixteen minutes, never being able to take the next moment for granted, as though your concentration itself is being toyed with. Background music, this is not.
The instrumentation at times feels like avant garde classical, heavily string-driven, but will transmute into purely electronic tones with subtle graduations that are hard to follow. It’s technically very proficient and there are certainly a few “how did they do that?” moments.
Perhaps as an indicator of my limited tolerance for jazz lectures, relatively mellow track “A” and the overtly theatrical stop-starting of final piece “E”, both of which with their vocals reduced to long sustained notes rather than language, are perhaps the tracks I’d be most happy to revisit.
It’s a bold jazzy performance statement that commands your attention.