Take two of contemporary music's most versatile improvising musicians, give them free reign to play and something of real worth is likely to arise. That is the philosophy of Farpoint Recordings, an Irish label founded by Anthony Kelly and David Stalling in 2004. Their trust in pianist Izumi Kimura and violinist/viola player Cora Venus Lunny is well founded. Fearless performers both, they work in a wide variety of improvised, genre-fluid settings that draw variously from folk, jazz and beyond. On this, their second recording following Folding (Farpoint Recordings, 2021)a singularly poetic meeting of improvised music and Kelly's pristine environmental field recordingsthey certainly deliver.
Like Folding, nature provides much of the inspiration for Invisible Resistancestitles that elude to the wind, light, fire and rain attest to that. And, as before, Kimura and Lunny's playing runs a gamut of emotions. Yet no matter which end of the spectrum of light and darkness their music inhabits, there is an edgy quality to their playing that suggests the ephemeral nature of things. This is most keenly felt in the three-part suite that gives the album its name. One could analyse the music, its shifting shapes and rhythms, ad nauseum, but in the end it is the emotional weight behind the notes that counts.
Over the course of forty minutes Kimura and Lunny are rarely partedtheir dialogue is practically constant. There is little in the way of bravura display from either though drama is not in short supply, whether it be in the tension between Kimura's bottom-end pulse and her probing in the higher octaves, or in the duo's simultaneous contrapuntal flights. Even in the quietest moments, as on "Ember," which conjures dappled sunlight bathing early morning slumber, there is an unusual intensity to the duo's play.
If Kimura is about colors, then Lunny is about textures, drawing coarse, sawing groans from the violin's strings and ethereal sustained pitches that occasionally toy with dissonance. Their dark, singing tone on "Chant" has the quality of a tenor voice. On "Refraction of Light" their hairy notes wheeze and crack like a wonky whistle. Flashes of folksy melody briefly surface, but the duo's language is essentially an internally driven one, inspired by, well, everything other than reductive notions of genre.
Pockets of gently wrought melody emerge here and there like shoots in spring. This is the case with "Sea Firefly" and "Rain Glow," though the music refuses to stand still. Spare reverie soon gives way to surges in notes and in intensity, but as with all these improvised pieces, the music resolves naturally and beautifully every time.
This is not simple music, but nor in truth is it overly complex. It might not give itself up entirely easily, but the most interesting music rarely does. Repeated listening is key to revealing its mysteries, but such endeavor and patience should prove to be richly rewarding.
Irides; Invisible Resistances i: The Gathered Winds; Invisible Resistances ii: The Merrow’s Work; Invisible Resistances
iii: Distilling Motion; An Ember; Chant; Refraction of Light; Sea Firefly; Rain Glow.
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