How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Cellist Joan Jeanrenaud joined the Kronos Quartet in 1978, participating in more than thirty recordings and over two thousand performances with the always innovative string ensemble known for interpreting other composers' works. In 1999 she struck out on her own, as both a solo artist and a composer.
Strange Toys, Jeanrenaud's second solo effort, is a study in mournful minimalism and an exploration of her instrument's richly gorgeous sound.
This release is an adventurous work. The cellist duets with a marimba and weaves burnished lines around various electronic effects and beats. She plays a chime sculpture, a la Art Ensemble of Chicago ("Air and Angels"), and accompanies PC Muñoz, the set's producer, reciting a John Donne poem. The resulting music has a traditional feeling of classical moods with hard avant-garde leanings.
The album is also quite beautiful and accessible I might add, for those who might be scared away by the "avant" tag and the expectations for screeching and squawking string instruments. The cello makes such gorgeous sounds, and Jeanrenaud hasn't plugged in or altered the classic approach to playing. What she has done is to give the cello's sound new and unusual contexts. She's also written some compelling melodic statements and has kept things spare with her instrument in the forefront of a variety of layered modernities.
Strange toys is a set of compelling off-the-beaten-path beauty.
Track Listing: Sling Shot; Axis; Kaleidoscope; Transition; Tug of War; Dervish; Ink Blot; Blue Kite; Livre; Waiting; Rainkids; Air & Angels; Vermont Rules; Trottola.
Personnel: Joan Jeanrenaud: cello, effects, chime sculpture; PC Muñoz: voice, beats; William Skeen: solo viola da gamba; Joanna Blendult: viola da gamba; Alex Kelly: cello; William Winant: marimba, vibraphone; Paul Dresher: quadrachord.