Boomkat Product Review:
Multi-instrumentalist/composer Eyvind Kang and vocalist/composer Jessika Kenney connect again on 'Azure', their most minimal record in years and a return to the "unison music" they explored in their early collaborations. Direct and intoxicating, it's an attempt to imagine a parallel universe ecstatic music - RIYL Catherine Christer Hennix, Ákos Rózmann, or Alvin Lucier.
If there's one element that immediately stands out on 'Azure', it's Kenney's powerful vocalisations, soaring into the heavens on the sparse opener 'Eclipse'. Kang's viola tones affirm Kenney's bizarre resonances; the sounds seem to graze each other so gently that they almost become a single instrument, blending early music phrasing with the distinct tonality of early Persian music. Multiple tracks on the album make this influence even more clear, riffing on ghazals from 'The Divān of Hafez'; the album's title track is pun on the Persian "az u", meaning "from her/him/them", and reinterprets lines from ghazal 413. "mâh az u, râh az u, âh az u," (the moon from them, the path from them, the sighs from them) Kenney sings confidently, while Kang mimics her phrases with feather-light viola bends, both of them harmonising with a tender shruti box drone. It's moonlit, midnight music that, regardless of your personal beliefs, contains divinity in the detail.
Kenney's delivery is more profound on 'Ocean', as she wavers expertly in the gaps between conventionally tempered notes. Kang's bowed flutters take on an earthier resonance here, as if you can hear the bow scraping against the strings more than even the notes themselves. The duo based this one on ring modulation's use of two simultaneous frequencies, and experiment with varying intensities of pulsation, teasing unusual harmonics from their vibrato phrases. And on 'Forest Floor', they look to Hafez once more; Kenney stretches out the words "tan" (body), "nur" (light) and various town names, turning them into disarming, fluxing drones. Then on the lengthy finale 'No Sound', Kenney and Kang reference Glenna Cole Allee's 'Hanford Reach', using words spoken by those living or working in the indigenous territories around the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington. Slow and effortlessly meaningful, it's music that sounds not like a specific kind of ecstatic music, but many established forms, from Benedictine chants to Carnatic music.