HELENA GOUGH – Knot Invariants


Everybody – except a few unlucky entities – knows that a rhetorical question, by definition, is not an actual request for an answer. If a normal question among a series of individual reflections related to the creative act appears on an artist’s website three years prior to the release of a CD, it is all the more unlikely that a reviewer can even entertain the idea of translating that fleeting snippet of an existence whose axis reads “making meaningful music” into an analysis of something linked to the current state of things. Incidentally, saturation can be referred to some aspects of the physics of sound or, I’m just hypothesizing, correspond to the sense of oppression rising inside a talented person when he/she sees the fruits of months of research blatantly bashed by incompetent simpletons whose verbal ejections may be temporarily nourished by recreational drugs or bad personal relations, and whose wisdom is usually built upon insignificant records believed to be masterpieces only because they were understandable enough on a first and, typically, only attempt.

In this era of laptop-induced boredom, finding an object worthy of keeping has become more and more difficult, especially when the risk is that bell-and-whistle snacks get highly praised and really significant works aren’t even really listened to before babbling about things that were never grasped in the first place. Coming in a classic Entr’acte sleeve that required surgical acts for the item to be finally extracted, Knot Invariants contains such a number of layers and intriguing revelations that confusing it with certain trash publicized by certain journalistic vending machines denotes symptoms of ADD at best, and the necessity of following an agenda at worst.

The source for the five pieces are two cellos (by Anthea Caddy and Anton Lukoszeviese). The instrument’s essence is perceptible in almost every minute of the disc, unless you start wandering around the house, perhaps washing the dishes while “assessing” the material, the golden rule of many “writers” endowed with the attention span of a mosquito. This music is made of innermost vibrations and conscious assemblage, the evident fruit of lengthy periods of systematization of the sonic substance and rethinking of the processes. Gough is a woman who puts herself in discussion, and loves being alone. A skilled audience will be able to understand this combination: intelligent restraint and will to start from zero each and every time. But there are elements that escape the limits of the compositions, the intangibles that – under the shape of abnormal subsonic resonance, dissonant partials or grating parallelism of pitches – distinguish a serious composer from the mass of dime-a-dozen impersonators.

Entirely devoid of the safety net that joyfully “inventive” dabblers use after declaring war to the conventions in pre-decided interviews, Gough relishes her seclusion with the sureness of a being that – deep down in the heart – knows that the path is right despite the many doubts. Though she’s classically trained, not a particle of her universe sounds vacuously intellectual or mentally contorted. Indeed, in its beautiful colours, this is a microcosm transmitting a type of inward-looking humanity that cannot be conceived by people whose level of comprehension is comparable to that of dozens of other equally meaningless purveyors of acoustic illiteracy, a superficial sameness seriously disturbed by statements that strike at unreachable levels. And no, mushrooms are not going to help them.

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