Jessica Pavone: Lull (Chaikin Records, 2021)

October 21, 2021 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Jessica Pavone: Lull

Jessica Pavone’s newest album is the most successful and fascinating of her recent works for string ensembles. She composed and conducted this one for an octet plus soloists, and the players’ improvisations are based on open pitches which they oscillate between on their own will. “Indolent” begins with tones which seem to repeatedly clash for the first several minutes, then it all blends harmoniously after a while, first through more strenuous, locked-in bowing and then blossoming outward to a more expansive gaze of sound. Already by this point, you feel like you’ve gone through a transformative process, but there’s still three more movements left. “Holt” features drummer Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), who patters at the outer edge of a snare drum head, less beating a rhythm than exploring the resonations of the instrument. The string octet creeps in, and Chase accelerates his drumming to a roll, and all of the instruments set off into a merry-go-round-like rotation. Chase’s amplified cymbal swallows the strings before you even realize he’s playing it, and it all strips down from a levitating blur to slow, sparse movements. Nate Wooley ends the piece with some visceral, spluttery trumpet playing, and he remains during the next piece, “Ingot”, focusing on a single droning note as the strings shift and rise behind him. Wooley eventually takes on a rougher, harsher timbre while the strings thresh away, almost approaching a marching tempo. “Midmost” starts out with some deep, almost grunting string clusters, then the playing dissipates and becomes nebulous. For the final half, the musicians all play together in evenly spaced intervals, with subtle alterations to the rhythm. By the end, it feels like gradually easing yourself into a hot bath until all your apprehensions have melted away and you feel soothed.

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