On parts of her last Emanem release, Fine Extensions
(2010)a duo with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm
in addition to playing her customary viola Charlotte Hug also used her voice. She sang in a quasi-operatic style as well as vocalizing, to produce eerie, other-worldly sounds, her voice combining with and complementing the strings to good effect. Now, on Slipway to Galaxies
, Hug uses her voice for the first time on a solo recording.
Recorded at the studio of Swiss radio DRS, in Zurich, in July 2010, Slipway to Galaxies
uses no overdubbing or electronic modification. That is vital information as, at times, the resulting music can sound very different to one viola plus one voice. Hug's viola playing has always displayed great variety and invention, so it is no surprise that her voice is a flexible and versatile an instrument, capable of producing a range of sounds from prolonged high frequency squealing tones through to surprisingly low frequency guttural utterances reminiscent of Sainkho Namchylak at her more demonic.
That vocal range enables Hug to mirror her viola playing with her voice so that the two can become intertwined and indistinguishable So, the prolonged opening track, "Anderwelten," begins with a high-pitched viola glissando that is joined by a similarly pitched vocal tone, before the two separate as the voice plunges down almost to a growl. It establishes a pattern for the album, as Hug, just as often, opts for contrasting viola and voice as having them occupy similar territory. Tellingly, it is not always the voila that leads, with the voice playing a subsidiary role; "Intersect" begins as a predominantly vocal piece with atmospheric half-whispered, barely audible vocalising which emphasizes its sounds, not the verbal content. Viola is gradually introduced to complement the voice, creating an engaging soundscape. As the piece progresses, Hug's vocals become increasingly playful, introducing appealing whoops and whinnying effects.
As with any improvising duo, the strength of the music lies in the differing positions that the two strands take up relative to each other and the ways in which they react and adapt to each other. So it proves herewith the important proviso that this duo was produced in real time by just one person controlled by just one brain. While listening, it can be easy to forget this salient fact and to believe two separate musicians are at work.
The album climaxes with its longest piece, the tour-de-force
title track. It displays the same strengths heard throughout, with Hug employing her full range of techniques on both instruments and blending them together into a coherent and satisfying whole. Magnificent!