The weather in this writer’s area has sucked big time – and violently, believe me – for days, thus the moment has come for acoustic medicament. Lo and behold, an album featuring duets for Great Highlands bagpipes is popping up right now, part of the currently abundant flow of Room40’s releases. What better than droning bagpipes to realign a mind numbed by unprecedented meteorological experiments, on top of everything else? Nothing, I’d say. So, let’s get on with it.
As collaborators for over 20 years, David Watson and Matthew Welch are well versed in harnessing the bagpipe for sonorities that don’t exactly scream “Scotland The Brave”. For the occasion, the instrumental pneuma furnishes the listener with repeated mirages of melodic suggestion while also yielding a slightly unsafe kind of dronage. This leaves one attentive and intrigued even in thorough analytical remoteness. All of the above depicts the opening track “Weft” quite comprehensively. But there is more.
Recording in a cavernous space (as per Watson’s description) allowed the duo to exploit the strictly “experimental” nuances of the interaction. In some shards of “Weave” the overall feeling of trance is somehow contradicted – substantiated? – by harsher textures soaked in neighboring partials, every hundredth of a quarter tone actively delivering the brain from nonsense. A rather minimalist contrapuntal logic can be, depending on the carpe diem ratio, complicated or simplified in terms of tone quantity and intensity of emission. What results is a set of internal movements, of struggles for the sovereignty of a given pitch, of unexpected glides within spectacular pseudo-static panoramas. In those moments we realize how far Watson and Welch have gone in exposing their individual “body/bagpipe” microcosm to each other. They become one with the instrument’s exhalations and, in turn, a lone performing entity with separate yet interdependent insights.