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An entire program of tandem string discourse may seem at first perusal like at unsavory offering. Few are the numbers of improvising string aggregations that can make such a combination work. Fortunately, as becomes immediately apparent once the music here begins Michael Bisio and Eyvind Kang are string stylists of the strong distinction and their collective mastery of pitch and timbre allows for an infinite array of sonic possibilities. Bisio has collaborated with some of the legends of creative music including Joe McPhee and Vinny Golia. Likewise Kang has kept similarly impressive company working with Bill Frisell and as a frequent participant in many of John Zorn’s projects. Their new offering on Meniscus provides them the space to fully plumb the sonorous depths of their instruments and it’s a challenging pleasure from inception to end.
The opening rendition of Coltrane’s “Seraphic Light” revisits all of the beauty of the piece’s angelic theme while retaining the underlying sadness inherent in the ensemble elements of Trane’s original version. Both players bring a stunning folk-inflected eloquence to the table that inculcates even the most tightly bundled harmonic passages. This is quite honestly one of the most moving pieces of music I can recall hearing in recent memory.
On “After The Break” Bisio’s serrated arco strokes cut thick harmonic slabs that swirl around Kang’s koto-like plucks. Later Kang’s bow builds a succession of subsonically etched scribbles as Bisio bounces his bow against his bridge and strings creating a rumbling racket of immense proportions. Even within the folksy groove figure of “The Biszer” the pair still finds immeasurable space to display their mastery of extended string techniques. “Cardinal Waters” works as the disc’s centerpiece both in terms of length and sheer volume of improvisational virtuosity. Spreading their collective ingenuity across a third of an hour Bisio and Kang cycle through a galvanizing array of thematic material. Both players put their respective instruments through a punishing series of paces and miraculously the level of musicianship never falters. Each piece is a harmonic feast that blends precisely into the next. All of them will require careful and contentious listens to completely grasp all that transpires between the two players. Attending to the dizzying heights these two effortlessly scale in one sitting becomes exhausting, but in the most satisfying way imaginable. Their work here deserves serious consideration as one of the top releases of 2000 thus far.
Tracks:Seraphic Light/ After The Break/ JGLag/ The Biszer/ Cardinal Waters/ Zebulon #3/ MBEK/ Cardinal Waters.
Players:Michael Bisio- bass; Eyvind Kang- violin.
Recorded: November 27, 1998, Flora Avenue Studios.
Meniscus discs are available through North Country Distributing http://www.cadencebuilding.com