For 4 Ears
I first heard violist Hug on her solo effort for Emanem last year, “Neuland”, a disc I found largely uninspired. There was, for my taste, far too much trying (especially insofar as insistence on rather showoff-y extended technique) and far too little actual meat. I’d never heard Laplante before so I don’t know if she regularly works this kind of magical transformation or if Hug has simply sidled into a more conducive territory but, whatever the case, “Brilliant Days” is a very successful, very rich offering. Consisting of five pieces recorded on two occasions in 2002 and 2003, the duo creates a spacious, somewhat wild and goofy world that’s almost always convincing. Much of the goofiness is supplied by Laplante’s laptop on which she tends toward sounds that are reminiscent of the early analog age of computer music, with loopy, ringing tones, sonar-like blips and all manner of thwangs and swizzles. There’s an expansiveness in her work, a willingness to toss out the most unlikely, outré sounds that nonetheless cradle and accent Hug’s more acerbic and severe stylings. Hug, for her part, appears to be a fine collaborator, always tying in even her most exotic explorations to the existing soundscape. She has a nice penchant for working the lower registers of her viola, often entering cello vicinity. In fact, some of her playing (especially on the third, longest track, “Ciel”) reminded me a bit of Penderecki’s writing in his “Cello Concerto”, a similar combination of avant-garde wrangling and strong romantic spirit. Of the five improvisations, only “Zone of Zest” fails to connect. The remainder are all equally bracing, each unfurling from a slightly different point of attack. Not a groundbreaking recording by any means, but “Brilliant Days” is solid, in your face and, more often than not, just plain fun which is more than you get with many a release these days. Check it out.
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