Over several years violist Julia Eckhardt – an artistic director at Brussels’ Q-O2 Werkplaats sound laboratory – has been amassing an extensive number of long-form pieces for solo viola, all of them rigorously in G. These are part of an archive which is available to artists willing to exploit the droning character of that music in heterogeneous settings, differently established each time. After a meeting during a residency, French artist Manu Holterbach decided to use Eckhardt’s drones as the basic constituent for his work, mostly originating from field (and “tubular”…) recordings that include, in this particular occasion, trees, wires, crickets, wind and different kinds of electric manifestation besides instruments like gong, eBowed banjo, other musicians’ rehearsals and Tonton Macoute’s “drone experience for cheap organ”.
The press release mentions Phill Niblock and Andrew Chalk as influences to consider when thinking about who should be the ultimate recipient of this beautiful CD. There’s an inherent static component, of course, but also a factor that partially distances Do-Undo from those names: consonance. This work’s vastness derives in fact from the almost perfect correspondence of the natural sources with the instrumental nuances around the fundamental pitch, devoid of post-processing or transposing. The mixture resonates very naturally: a life-enhancing current, a rehabilitation against the excess of nervous tension. The events succeed without a solution of their continuity, the ears neither capable of deciding what to highlight, nor anxious to focus on a determinate direction of the layered pulses. This goes on for the whole extent of the album, with nary a moment of weariness – which, in this genre, is quite an achievement.
In actuality, the defenselessness characterizing the pseudo-stationary structures of “Julia’s Ecstatic Spring Phenomenon” – which nonetheless remain stable throughout – and the sensitiveness shown in the overall sonic flow’s groundwork had me recalling, at one point, Richard Skelton’s pastorally plangent ebbs and flows. Except that there is no ebb and flow here. The association with maverick minimalists such as the aforementioned Niblock and La Monte Young comes easier in the record’s second half, “Two Stasis Made Of Electricity” (a Young title is even quoted in a sub-chapter). Still, Holterbach and Eckhardt’s gatherings show enough personality for carving a niche of uniqueness in your spirit as they actually did in this writer’s, ever since the first of a series of listens that’s meant to go on.