ARC – The Pursuit Of Happiness

Emanem

The trio of Sylvia Hallett (violin & electronics, voice), Danny Kingshill (cello, voice) and Gus Garside (double bass & electronics), Arc were born in 1988 but only in this, their third album, chose to use additional enhancements as the previous two releases – 1992’s Remembering on Uneasy Listening and 1993’s Out Of Amber on Slam – were completely acoustic, then as now exploring the “collective language that draws on the European textures of the violin family”. Every operation and (more or less premeditated) occurrence that this recording introduces appears to have been seriously considered: there’s no question about an almost total lack of light-heartedness and joviality in favour of something that echoes the creative uncertainties (typically leading to great discoveries) and the limitlessness of the field of research probed by three artists who sound like participating in a first meeting, in a positive sense.

Even in absence of excessive smiling the record manages to steer well clear of pretentiousness and intellectual obesity. The musicians’ complete adherence to a credo of darkish melodic elongations and textural proficiency, the extensive treatments of the material with classy instrumental dignity – no preparations really detectable, just the uncontaminated tones of the whole gamut of bowed strings vibrating – are enough to establish an atmosphere whose severity is counterbalanced by the diverse contrapuntal permutations that these improvisations show. Hallett, Kingshill and Garside are concentrated yet never self-centred, the see-through quality of the final result the perfect evidence of a honest attitude, a will to accept any consequence for what they decide to play. This is beautifully speckled music that can’t be possibly approached without razor-sharp attentiveness: you must follow its uncertain lines, evaporating contradictions, corpulent resonances and dissonant flights while getting rid of the presumption of having understood the mechanics at work. Only through this method one realizes how handsome these creations are.

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