Among feelings are nervousness and anxiety. While synonymous in any thesaurus, the two words differ in the same way that thankfulness and gratitude differ, that is, in focus. Nervousness and thankfulness often have no focus, no definite object creating them. Anxiety and gratitude are those feelings, those reactions to the specific. Something clearly gives rise to them. With regards to anxiety and disquiet, Canadian vocalist and composer Lara Solnicki uses "free jazz" and poetry as the stimulus for generating a mood of anxiety. Not anxiety in a bad way. More like a lack of clarity in an otherwise cohesive narrative. Solnicki presents this unease cinematically in discrete vignettes, or tone poems, each following its own creative arc, resolving or not, in a state still possessing tension, but one better realized than before.
The One And The Other is Scolnicki's third release, after A Meadow In December (Self Produced, 2010) and Whose Shadow (Inner Circle Music, 2014). The singer is hyperliterate, existing at a modern-postmodern interface where her art is informed equally by the other, often at the same time. Solnicki plants her spear in the sand in the cleverly entitled "Bit Her Sweet Christopher Street." The piece begins as if awakening, but not quite making it, falling back into that twilight that can disconcert. Jonathan Goldsmith's angular piano and Peter Lutek's screeching saxophone introduce the first fit of concern buoyed on Scott Peterson's bubbling electric bass. After a moment of respite, guitarist Rob Piltch 's Ben Monder-inspired glorious noise stirs the dream before emerging, not quite settled.
"Furling Leaf, Retrocede" is a spoken poetry narration carried slowly along by fractured and unrecognisable music, gently simmering with the occasional release of tension only to double down into further chaos. "Furling leaf, retrocede, whaft, near view" sets up a scene that develops into "Sheer currents beyond the finestra stir machines in this laundromat..." juxtaposing nature versus the mechanised. This performance could be envisioned performed at some yet unnamed, future Village Vanguard, at whatever a poetry slam is called in that way off time. Solnicki's words are clinical, astringent: "Green-yellow ataxia to the flushing gates -Twenty-one; Sixty Six...precocious tides with its attaches of amnesia...pleading sighs in the undertow / with swells of heaving flesh..." With music these are industrial visions, humid, clanging, insomniac: Hypnotic in the same way as Placidyl or Quaalude.
In this guise, this is no music with which to unwind after a typically hectic, post-COVID-19 day. But Solnicki does provide the tuneful interlude in the descriptively titled "Idée Fixe" (think Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique deconstructed to a schizophrenic piano-saxophone duet over a wandering bass). Her wordless melodies tie the piece together into the messy stuff of life. "The One And The Other" is a three section suite combining all the stylistic elements that have preceded them. It takes an informed talent to conceive of and then execute music and lyrics of this complexity. Lara Solnicki is able to present disintegration in an orderly and understandable fashion. While this is not cocktail party music, it is rich food for thought and contemplation.
Bit Her Sweet Christopher Street; Idée Fixe; The Embrace; Furling Leaf, Retrocede; The One and the Other: I Pass a lass; II Awe of the Sea; III Hollow the Need.