Relative Pitch

I must confess that the pairing of a trumpet player with sampler wizard Dino J.A. Deane – he of Jon Hassell renown – had me a little skeptical at first, a “low-budget clone alert” insistently flashing in the head. Stephanie Richards’ impressive CV also narrates of her involvement with presumed pop geniuses not even considered by this writer’s severely reduced acoustic liberalism; the names of St Vincent and David Byrne – not to mention Kanye West – prompted indeed a gut recoil. Finally, there’s already another former Anthony Braxton associate whose talent is currently being aggrandized notwithstanding the steady decreasing of her music’s actual usefulness following an auspicious start. So there were reasons to be worried.

That said, a honest and uninfluenced appraisal of Fullmoon is rewarded with several portions of attractive sonorities. A teacher at UC San Diego, Richards is certainly well versed in the theatrical/gestural aspects of a performance, which is clearly reflected in the ten tracks of this concise album. Researching into the resonant traits of obsessiveness can yield substantial results; in that sense, the opening track “New Moon” is an excellent introduction to the protagonist’s inventiveness. She’s quite good in balancing more linear snippets with the fruits of sheer timbral investigation – mainly with the aid of percussion instruments – thus concocting overtones, impressions and noises between mystery and irony (“Timpani” and “Full Moon Part I” are my favorites). Deane’s clever counterpoint to Richards’s sober virtuosity constitutes an effective enhancement; his transformations and underlinings project puzzling perspectives across which the melodic shards propagate in absence of gravitational pull.

One may envisage this material as a proactive accompaniment for experimental choreographies; still, it does walk on its own legs. It takes a few minutes to realize the lack of substance behind a façade, but I’m glad to report that this CD suggests the exact contrary, the bulk of the sounds produced by the Richards/Deane duo forcing a curious listener to a further scrutiny of their constitutional features. Although not a genuine milestone, this is most definitely a solid release.

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