The 2020 lockdown didn’t stop violin duo String Noise. Over the past couple of years, avant garde violin luminaries Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris have been releasing albums at an epic pace. Serendipitously, they’re back to playing live again. The duo’s next appearance is a somewhat unusual but aptly wintry one, on Feb 4 at 8 PM at the Clemente Soto Velez communithy center at 107 Suffolk St off Rivington. It’s a collaboration with singer/sound artist Stine Janvin and composer Cory Arcangel, where the two violinists will play scores to accompany an audiovisual performance based on the knitting patterns for traditional Norwegian sweaters. Which might mean cozy, or abrasive – or both. Cover is $20; take the F/J/M to Delancey.
The group’s latest album, Way, comprises a trio of texturally delicious microtonal works, streaming at New Focus Recordings. They open with Alex Mincek‘s magically disquieting, microtonal suite, referencing an enigmatic Antonio Machado poem whose central road metaphor could be either liberation or a huis clos. Interestingly, the composer quotes Samuel Beckett in the liner notes.
They begin with muted puffing white noise, up to a steady stride with increasingly acidic microtones and harmonics as the music reaches toward horror. Artful approximations of a minor chord and a tritone shift ever so slightly. Slowly, the two voices begin to diverge and follow separate paths, the harmonies growing warmer and more diverse. There’s a second movement that starts with an approximation of a drifting snowstorm, which builds momentum even as the music becomes more spacious, the steps spaced further apart along with the harmonies. The slow procession eventually reaches an ending that may take you by surprise. It’s as entrancing as it is hypnotic: what a way to open the record!
Up next is Lou Bunk’s five-part suite, Field. The first movement has spritely microtonal flickers that build, fall away and drift delicately into the ether, only to spring back into action, finally up to a slashing peak and then gracefully back down. The duo end it with a series of gently sirening glissandos.
Movement two is more wispy and sepulchral; the next more spacious and surprising, with the occasional doppler effect. The violinists follow a tightly spiraling interweave in the fourth movement and wrap it up with a brief coda that flits by almost imperceptibly.
The album’s final work is (In) Tone, by Catherine Lamb. Uneasy, slow tectonic shifts drift through the sonic frame and diverge like a raga at one-tenth speed. Notwithstanding the glacial pace, the wary atmosphere seldom lifts; likewise, the shimmering harmonics and otherworldly close harmonies. Fans of music that defies the western scale have a feast to sink their ears into here.