Boomkat Product Review:
In a bewitching improvised session, Moor Mother and Valentina Magaletti collaborator and Avon Terror Corps alum Dali de Saint Paul paints in surreal, lucid strokes, looping her voice into puzzling knots over Maxwell Sterling's oddball double bass and lyra scrapes. RIYL Stine Janvin, AGF, Maja Ratkje.
When Saint Paul and Sterling met up to record a performance for the BBC's Late Junction, they surprised themselves. The duo ended up with far too much material for a single show, so assembled the remnants into 'Penumbra', tagging the Late Junction session onto the end to complete the narrative. And they do a lot here with very little: Saint Paul handles the vocals, with FX of course, and Sterling plays electric and acoustic double bass and lyra. A regular fixture on Bristol's improv scene, Saint Paul slips into her role seamlessly, while Sterling pulls on the heady spiritual jazz-chamber music abstraction that anchored leftward-facing tomes like 'Hollywood Medieval' and 'Laced With Rumour: Loud-Speaker Of Truth'.
Saint Paul's voice swirls around Sterling's plucks and drones on the lengthy opener, set into a rhythmic throb before she begins to speak in a spine-chilling whisper. The density they manage to create is almost overpowering; repetition is key, but doesn't capsize the improvisation, the duo alternate between loops and connecting, improvised phrases, creating an atmosphere that lulls you into a trance. And on the second track, Saint Paul carves her words and phrases into uncomfortable syllables that hiccup and chatter like birdsong, melting into the gaps between Sterling's imposing tremolo'd strings. Like Spacemen 3 jamming with Maja Ratkje, it's unashamedly psychedelic material: Saint Paul's rollercoaster delivery commands attention, while Sterling's giddy backdrop provides the jam with focus.
From track to track, they seem to relish tearing things up and starting again. On '3' a clattery, guttoral rhythm lends formal structure to Saint Paul's whirling vocal loops, and on '4', Sterling takes the lead, swerving through Saint Paul's buzzing voice with melancholy string passages that he mutates into an insectoid hum. They save the most dramatic jam for last; Saint Paul whistles a whimsical curl that dips and dives against Sterling's imposing, cinematic bowed phrases. Then she sings, unleashing a reverberating wail that gets cleaner and more vulnerable as the track progresses. It's crushing stuff and an ideal finale, but the album's not completely done - there's a brief interlude and then the darker, narrower half-hour Late Junction session supplied in full.