I have to admit I had to look up the meaning of the word "penumbrae" as my astronomical terminology is a bit rusty. The reference to "the partial or imperfect shadow outside the complete shadow of an opaque body (such as a planet)" clicks right in to place when listening to this superlative duo of violinist Jennifer Allum and percussionist Eddie Prévost. Allum, a member of Prévost's weekly workshops, has been performing regularly around London in improvised settings as well as with the Post Quartet, a string quartet which she helped found. This recording takes the form of a series of "investigations" into the interaction of bowed objects: Allum makes use of a 17th-century German bow and a 'conveyor-belt' bow, while Prévost sticks to bowed percussion, laying out shimmering waves of excited harmonics and overtones from tam tam and small cymbals. Over the course of four improvisations, what slowly and lucidly emerges is a focused voyage of sonic interplay. In lesser hands, limiting the music to bowed surfaces could easily come off as a contrivance. Here, the two approach their improvisations with conviction and bracing detail. Control is the key, with both musicians using attack and decay, resonance and a honed attention to the qualities of string and metal to create mercurial striations across a precise trajectory. This is a release which continues to reveal itself with concentrated listening over a number of plays and is one that I've found myself returning to often.
Michael Rosenstein PARIS Transatlantic Summer 2011