Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Lovely recent drone composition by the masterful Eliane Radigue, written specifically for cellist Charles Curtis. Radigue is easily one of my favorite drone composers, so much so that simply relegating her work to the "drone" tag seems unfair, given that her pieces are so incredibly in-depth and rich in warmth. It's music that unfolds and envelops, that truly washes over and drags down. Radigue is one of very few composers who understands that music is a great vehicle for journey and transcendence and the lengthy analogue oceans of drift she creates are some of the most contemplative and introspective i've ever heard. These albums require your attention and engagement; they're not made for casual listening. You can have them on but they will always demand more.
"Naldjorlak" is a milestone as it's Radigue's first acoustic composition, performed with no electronic embellishment, relying only on natural acoustics and the performer's interpretation of the work before him. At first i was a little frightened of this limitation but once this piece begins to work its spell the fright melts away and you're pulled into the blanketed darkness of Radigue's arctic and glacial vision. I'm astonished that a cello can produce these sorts of long drawn out sounds. The tones never relent throughout; it's a constant, slowly shifting and twisting work of unreleased tension. Curtis' playing is top notch, easily up to the task Radigue mapped out for him. This is drone championed by groups like Pelt or Avarus, only much more pure and focused. I like both Pelt and Avarus, but Radigue's work here is really something breathtaking; epic and celestial, possessed of an earthless majesty, an absolute force of sound. To have been in the audience for this piece's performance could only have been a transformative experience for all in attendance; i can't envision this music not having a physical, room-filling presence.
Such is the way with Radigue's work. It's stately and towering and demands recognition. Every piece she's created is a magnum opus, the heart of the drone experience, a bath in purity of vision and creation. "Naldjorlak" is slightly more menacing than usual for Radigue but no less powerful or immersive. The time spent on edge whilst listening to this recording is time that Radigue holds you totally in her grasp, pulling your anxieties to surface so that the awesome force of her music can exorcise them out. It is meditation, in a sense, as close as any musician can truly come without resorting to the saccharine. It's simple but complex beyond most imagination, timeless in that these sorts of sound shave always existed, waiting to be assembled and drawn out. This is a communion and a ritual, and i could not recommend it (or any of Radigue's work) more highly.

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