I think it's the first time I have heard Jennifer Allum, violinist and member of the London based Post Quartet, which specializes in experimental music from the 2nd half of the twentieth century onwards (Wolff, Cardew, Pisaro etc.), and who regularly collaborates with English improvisers such as John Butcher, Seymour Wright and Eddie Prévost. In this crepuscular disc, she throws herself into the exploration of an instrument that is relatively rarely used in improvised music and which is rather difficult to implement and transcend in the company of Eddie Prévost, who uses a bow almost continually in order to facilitate the symbiosis.
The first part of this recording is composed of three 'studies' which explores the violin and the percussion through the constant mediation of bows, and of course beyond their functional and formal use. For, even if the sketch of a melodic canvas is incidental, it’s from Eddie Prévost’s bow that it arises. But these canvases are as opaque and subtle as they are rare, and it’s rather the exploration of the timbre that is the scope of the work on the disc. The duo invests the sonic potential characteristic of the bow (and indirectly of the instruments the bow uses as a medium) and reveals all its wealth without ever failing to listen to each other and to integrate him/her in the discourse. The dialogue obtained is very dynamic, intense and beautiful because it doesn’t rely solely on the timbre exploration of the instrument but also on the possibilities resulting from the interaction between the violin and the percussion. It is therefore a powerful sonic journey because each time the timbre of one instrument unfolds in all its wealth it makes the sonic landscape of the other instrument richer, in a surprising effect of reciprocity and equality.
As noticed by Seymour Wright in the excellent sleeve notes, the only difference between the first and the second parts of the disc is the title because it too is an exploration of the interaction between the bows. It’s maybe the length of Dolwilym (37 minutes) that makes the sound less homogenous and the dynamics more varied. Different modes of playing are used: soft, dry or brutal attack, continuous or curt sounds, open or muffled harmonics, etc. Similarly to the previous “studies” the unfolding of one makes the discourse of the other richer thanks to very sensitive and attentive listening (and also thanks to a “sociological activism” amidst the music). The enrichment operates by assimilation, integration, opposition, confrontation, support, etc. and this architecture contributes equally to the sonic and structural dynamics.
Prévost and Allum invite us on a sonic journey which is altogether minimalist and dynamic, sensitive and attentive; and for the listener this exploration is as overwhelming as it is captivating. Wealth of the bow, magic of the understanding and depth of attention to the other, join strength with a dynamism that is as cerebral as emotive without being hermetic or cold. In spite of any systematic aspect these “studies” are really warm and human, open to emotions and sensitivity (and not only to the intellectual sensitivity), a research where interactive dynamism arouses emotions as much as it captivates the attention.
Impro Sphere 26th April 2011
translated by Olivier Rodriguez