Boomkat Product Review:
The master of concentrated minimalism and acoustics conducts cellists Tyler J. Borden, Laura Cetilia, Charles Curtis and Judith Hamann on durational, open-stringed manoeuvres recorded in his kitchen - RIYL Phill Niblock, Éliane Radigue, Pauline Oliveros
‘One Arm Bandits’ is a an hour long work scored for cello quartet in four parts, demanding they only play open strings, effectively never fingering strings with the left hand. It stems from Lucier’s 2007 conversations with Charles Curtis about bow direction changes and shifts in phase that led to its 2015 conception with Judith Hamann & T.J. Borden in New York, and its first performance in Graz and Zürich, 2016.
The work radically reduces the players’ role to producing pure sustained tones which are technically difficult to maintain and, in effect, bear striking similarities with the physical demands and results of Harley Gaber’s totemic ‘Winds Rise in the North’. However where Gaber’s piece is defined by a bloodletting tension, Lucier’s ‘One Arm Bandits’ feels out a finer line of technical precision in its systematic exploration of tone and remarkably electronic-sounding results.
Necessarily lasting an hour in order to recognise the scale of the piece and magnify the subtleties that emerge during its performance, ‘One Arm Bandits’ really gets under the skin with due attention. It's the definition of deferred gratification, hewing to a near static nature whose nuance is made apparent in phasing that produces fascinating psychoacoustic perceptions as it appears to descend a harmonic scale to a viscous, thickening low end over the recording’s duration.