Friday, July 8, 2011

Stefano Pastor / Ari Poutiainen - North South Dial [SLAM]

Stefan Pastor - violin, synthesizer
Ari Poutiainen - violin

SLAM 2011

A very rare instrument in jazz (sligthly less so in free improvised music) is here presented in a duo version to bring into focus its potential. I really can't think of any other violin duo release (if you know any, put that in the comments) so this one is really unique for me in a way it explores unchartered territories.
The range of tones produced is awe-inspiring on its own. Not only we can find the the classical round tone violin is known for in concert-halls, or the gypsy-like raw passion of a fast glissando. Violin here can sound like a saxophone, shakahuchi, zither, bringing to the pool not only the beauty of its singing features but also ugly and frightening details of the scraping sounds.
The fantastic example of this richness is "Ozone Drizzle" that sounds almost like a percussion piece, with a plucked strings providing the rhythm track, scraped accent bringing the groove slowly joined by a dancing shakahuchu melody. The next "Breathing Vault" confronts the initially fragile, than more and more disturbing with it whirling paranoia sound of violin against the gloomy and dark electronic cloud enviroment. "Caught Between Two Winters" pairs a dissonant intervals that serve both as a harmonic and rhythmic platform for some soloing madness. The passionate and fiery "Chasing The Atmpophile Elements" starts like a ''show-off" battle but the musicians are in an absolute sync, trading the melodies and rhythms and energy between them, a good example how different and how complementary can their playing be, and a fitting closure to the album.
With all the variations in timbres and tones, even with the addition of an eerie electronics background on a couple o tracks, this is a  violin album par excellence. An instrument that forces all kind of associations with the classical european music which extends also towards the european traditions of free-improvisation. 
While the synth sound is bit off puting (fortunately it's seldom used and to overshadow the violin sound), and an hour of two violins can be a little too much at times (those high notes can really pierce your ears), the music is courageous, adventorous, searching and captivating. The communication, the seamless back and forth between the rhythmic and melodic values, the sensibility and the passion for music - it's all here, making it a demanding, but also a highly rewarding listen.

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