Over the years Sylvia Hallett has grown us accustomed to sonorities born from objects such as bicycle wheels or saws, reshaping them via the use of delays, pitch shifters and loopers. By adding these uncanny voices to the tones of violins and hurdy-gurdies, she introduces audiences to psychoacoustic dimensions at once defined by concreteness and surrealism.
But in recent times Hallett went a step further. Using creatively the intrusiveness of some canopies of Russian vine crossing the border between her house and the neighboring Tottenham garden, Hallett recorded their bowed souls, subsequently amplifying and altering them with the usual array of pedals. The English improviser had actually debuted this technique in 2015, as she started bowing grape-vines during a site-specific performance in Italy. Tree Time represents the achievement of a difficult aim.
The sonic shades of these five tracks are hard to adjectivize. Besides “wonderful”, that is. Coarse growls, stirring resonances and clusters of atypical harmonics transcend into maelstroms of sloping chords; listeners are left floating in an environment oxygenated by the grace of misshapen glissando (“Song Of Boughs” is perhaps the best example). Organic yet otherworldly echoes rich in expressive qualities are brought to life by Hallett’s sensitive manual intervention and finely tuned ears.
“The trees speak slowly and ponderously, over centuries, rooting down to the memories that are stored in their fibrous trunks.” To paraphrase the title of Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s book made famous by a Stevie Wonder double album, Hallett magnificently depicts a journey through the secret musical core of plants. Those who listen to the essence of life beyond empty words are welcome to this enriching experience, repeatable ad infinitum in case one does not have the wooden protagonists close enough.