The activity of reedists and teachers Jason Alder and Piotr Michalowski is dense with remarkable events and collaborations. Joining forces for this album, they juxtaposed the contiguous traits of contrabass and contra-alto clarinets, choosing five models (rigorously listed in the track titles) through which their creative spirits exhale. The resulting nine improvisations were intrinsically ready to be recorded after a preparatory cycle of live performances.
The correspondence between reeds mainly operating in the lower registers (with occasional exceptions) leaves no space for romantic fantasies or graceful airiness. The cavities and conduits resonate deeply and menacingly, at times summoning forth ancestral memories via droning overlays that inevitably call to mind the voice of the didgeridoo. Melodic cues may appear in atonal contexts, although attempts to introduce some sort of transient thematicity do exist. However, the bulk of the interchange is a mixture of intertwined dissonant phrasing and held tones. When the latter are adjacent, our membranes sympathetically respond, even by literally quaking; the superimposed frequencies of a pair of large clarinets possess surprising power. During segments where the instruments punctuate the action more percussively amidst short jarring spurts, we can hear the players emitting vocal discharges, the energy imploded within their bodies until that moment finally released.
Overall, this technically impeccable recording conveys troubled quietness and controlled perturbation. It’s not a relaxing listen, but the seriousness of the performers warrants our ultimate appreciation of the whole. Quality headphones are recommended for a better absorption of the infinitesimal details and, if speakers are your choice, exploit loudness for a healthy reverberation of the music from the room’s proactive corners.