Friday, September 25, 2020
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cover
Artist: Deborah Walker
Title: Starflux
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Elli Records
The concept behind Starflux is to play a cello in an unusual way. By laying it flat, and using one undulating hand to apply different pressures to each string whilst the other hand constantly strums, it becomes a staccato pulsing instrument, deep and broody and industrial and barely recognisable as a classical string instrument. The changes in tone forego the usual modal intervals of western music and are based on maths and fractions, and over the course of the three long pieces, the gradual changes in proportion caused by the changing weight on each string results in gradually shifting but subtle micro-changes in the tone.

The result in the title track is mesmerising, in a simple, direct way. What initially feels a bit like the sound of hammering gradually settles down into the feeling of rhythm- around 100bpm, give or take- and it’s one of those long sound effects that seems to normalise in your ears, so that when it eventually stops, you miss it, as though it ought to always be there.

Ostensibly, the second track is a reconstruction of the concept of the first, done digitally to avoid the natural limitations and inconsistent tonal dominance of a real cello. But the result is entirely different- long, sustained, pure sine wave tones arrive in sequence, unpredictable thanks to the unfamiliar range of pitches. The rhythm is so slow as to essentially be gone, and instead we have a near-ambient, glacial digital melody that could scarcely be more different to the first.

Final piece “Pharus Novae” essentially, to over-simplify it, brings together the sound of the two previous recordings. The simple connection between the low tones of the first piece and the exclusively high tones of the second feels like a natural fit, and rather than feeling like you are being fed the same sound on repeat, instead it feels like the natural conclusion to a triptych, with the ear-normalisation of the rhythm in the first piece returning like an old friend. It’s oddly satisfying.

This release is one of the sixteen in the now complete Elli Records “In The Room” series, and it’s in good company with some excellent other releases. It’s also worth getting all sixteen on Bandcamp, via a subscription maybe, because of the strangely satisfying effect of arranging all sixteen releases in a four by four grid so that the full original artwork can be seen.

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