Thursday, September 20, 2018

Robbie Lee and Mary Halvorson - Seed Triangular (New Amsterdam Records, 2018)

This is a very interesting album that ranges from folk to jazz and beyond, with the duet of Robbie Lee on multiple woodwind and reed instruments and Mary Halvorson on multiple stringed instruments. Much like when Sun Ra asked his Arkestra to play instruments they were unfamiliar with on the Strange Strings LP, Halvorson is playing many of these for the first time including harp guitar, 1930 Gibson L-2 guitar, and a 6-string banjo. But what could seem like a gimmick in other hands turns into a voyage of discovery with these two musicians, playing mostly short improvisations and getting a wide range of exciting sounds and textures. Tracks like "A Forest Viol" are enchanting with the instruments sounding cool and exotic as tightly strung strings and swooping unusual wind instruments give an unusual tactile quality to the surface of the music, moving both with and against the grain of their improvisation. "Fireproof-brick Dust" with choppy acoustic guitar adding filigrees of notes and flutes that move in a twisting or spiraling pattern and "Rock Flowers" demonstrate this dynamic further with a cool pinched sound from the strings and a sawing reed instrument that becomes loud before dropping off in a wildly exciting duet improvisation. "Spring Up There" has piercing flute and nimble string work, almost hinting at the hypnotic quality of Native American flute music, before shifting to shimmering and spare abstraction. This mysterious and beguiling vibe continues on "Shoots Have Shot" which sounds fast and free, as the music is unmoored in time and space and Lee's flute drones against the spikes of guitar. "The Tawny Orange" has an esoteric and haunting sound, opening to a mystical experience like a wordless secret transmitted through music. The album concludes with two excellent performances, "Early Willows" and the title composition, "Seed Triangular." The former uses chimes or bells like an incantation, creating a sound ceremony for contemplating the wheezing reed instrument and strings, leading into the latter which ends with flute and carefully plucked strings in a long flowing stream of music that juxtaposes the pastel tones of the flute with jagged guitar playing in an appealing fashion. album preview, live in studioSeed Triangular - amazon.com

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