Stefano Pastor: violin; Charlotte Hug: viola, voice
Theoretically speaking, improvisation should aim to the removal of any encumbrance that may hinder the path towards an autonomous manifestation of musical sentience. In Paragone D’Archi – a title playing with the different interpretation of the Italian word “archi”, translatable both as “arches” and “bowed instruments” – Pastor and Hug look determined to go a step further, namely adding difficulties to their interaction in order to yield an even more saw-edged sonic outcome as they establish a method to overcome the gnashing of teeth emitted by the inexperienced in front of all that erudite cantankerousness. A rather manifest attribute knocking at our ears is the apparently premeditated grittiness of the timbres. Those who have experienced Pastor’s formulations are already acquainted with his attempts of splitting the violin tone’s partials (through the use of amplification and guitar strings) to acquire a reed-like sonority primarily influenced by contemporary jazz and blues. Hug does not pull punches, either: chordal networks of vaguely neoclassical ancestry, instant multiplication of splintered lines and strident harmonics, dangerous glissandos accompanying Pastor’s unkeyed good manners with a combination of cultivated ebullience and fulminant sharpness. Also a dumbfounding vocalist – indeed her talent in that area is not enough praised, if you ask me – the Swiss contributes with stunning (and occasionally disquieting) diplophonic utterances and implausible peeps and tweets to a complex palette rich in struggle and resistance – especially against commonplace, one could say – and, why not, pathos. I’m not telling you that this is a love-at-first-glance work; on the contrary, it requires concentration and patience for an accurate discernment of its countless hues. That polymorphic shapes, sulfurous scents and scathing impressions are conveyed by “just” two akin instruments adds worth to the package, if the earnestness of the involved names is not sufficient for you to share this reviewer’s persuasion.