MARTINE ALTENBURGER / JOHN RUSSELL – Duet

Another Timbre

Cello and guitar giving life to a relationship based on physically erudite intercourses and tit-for-tat acoustic swaps, like an adult couple having passionate sex in between quarrelling incidents. The proficiency shown by Altenburger (first time with her for this writer) and Russell is explicated through a kind of investigative muscularity ending in repeated moments of sparkling turmoil. They look for a meeting point persistently and nervously, getting really angry more often than not, ultimately managing to fuse the respective improvisational instances into consistent statements. Despite an excellent recording quality allowing the detection of the tiniest vibrations in the instruments’ structural mechanisms, the pair is willing to slap the listener’s face repeatedly and healthily. Twanging and popping strings, robust knocks and vigorously rubbed surfaces are a steady presence, forcing us to lower the headphone volume in some of the most dynamically charged passages. Calmer sections do subsist, though: when Russell bends pitches behind the bridge and the nut after plucking – thus responding to the firmly minimal lines arcoed by Altenburger – suddenly different lights diffuse, precious instants of relative tranquillity enjoyed before a new flood of dissonant rasgueados and hoarsely tremoloed upper partials regenerates the earlier feuds. Enlivening, to say the least.

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