Boomkat Product Review:
Three hours into the sublime with Kali Malone, who plays tuned sine wave oscillators alongside Lucy Railton on cello and Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley on electric guitar. An exercise in tuning, harmonic theory and duration; it's meditative, deep listening music.
If Living Torch was Kali Malone in miniature, an economical and concise précis of her musical philosophy, "Does Spring Hide Its Joy" clicks the maximize button, boosting her durational process into three precise hourlong explorations of harmonic theory. In many ways, its a more fitting follow-up to Malone's breakout 2019 album "The Sacrificial Code", encouraging listeners to interface with the purity of sound and tuning as they interact with each other. Free from grandstanding set-piece moments, this one is once again all about micro variations.
The piece was developed in Spring 2020, when Malone was invited to the Funkhaus studio and MONOM to develop a suite of music using their vast empty space for recording. A few technicians were left to help out (including electro-acoustic/ambient babe Jake Muir), but Malone, Railton and O'Malley mostly had the space to themselves to devise new work together. The inspiration was the perception of time itself, something that had come into sharp focus for many under lockdown. "Time stood still until subtle shifts in the environment suggested there had been a passing," Malone says. "Memories blurred non-sequentially, the fabric of reality deteriorated, unforeseen kinships formed and disappeared, and all the while, the seasons changed and moved on without the ones we lost."
Musically, Malone and her collaborators represent this timelessness by presenting a framework rather than a concrete composition. On this release, there are three renditions of the same piece, and since the recording the trio have performed it numerous times across Europe; each time shifting gently to represent the mood of the players and unique dynamics of each space. Hearing it in one three-hour chunk might seem like an undertaking, but it's the best way to disentangle the trio's themes and mark the simmering intensity of their work.
For his part, O'Malley has never sounded as restrained - his guitar, so often an abstracted marker of 20th century "metal" posturing, is so reduced that it's often hard to separate from Malone's tones and Railton's controlled movements. The inherent sound - a Sabbath via Earth amplified roll turned down to a resonant whistle - allows us to see it from another angle, and puts O'Malley's long-held interest in global minimalist music into perspective. In fact it sounds as if Malone and O'Malley are two parts of the same coin here, their sounds blurring into one another sometimes completely, leaving Railton to add character and texture to their tonal canvas.
The use of distinct instruments and the centering of three discrete performances is key to the album. Each instrument represents a different strand of modern minimalist music: European classical tradition is marked by the cello, blues and metal by the guitar, and electronic music by the sine generator. Combining these without adhering to usual hierarchies, Malone and her collaborators essentially comment on musical history itself.
Deep listening recommended.