Hal Rammel and Matt Turner: Fractures and Phantoms [penumbra CD017]
Fractures and Phantoms, the new set of six improvisations by the duo of Hal Rammel and Matt Turner, brings together an unusual pairing of instruments. Turner’s cello is familiar enough, but Rammel’s instrument, the amplified palette, is a handbuilt creation of his own design consisting of a palette-shaped wooden base sprouting thin metal and wooden bars or rods of various lengths and looking like nothing so much as a hypertrophied thumb piano on a vertical axis. The sounds it produces when bowed or struck are intriguing—bell-like, crystalline and microtonal, sometimes evoking detuned wind chimes or a xylophone left out in the elements. (Agog, a solo set from 2012, is a fine introduction to the amplified palette and its range of voices.)
An odd pairing, perhaps, but one that works. Turner’s deep grasp of the textural possibilities inherent in extended technique goes far toward establishing a fertile common ground. His pressured and vibrato bowing, scraping and tapping all map quite comfortably onto Rammel’s array of sounds. Highlights include the skittering tone clusters and heavy bowing of Fracture 1; Phantom 2’s deep metallic tones laid over Turner’s evocation of the sounds of distressed wood and strings; the amplified palette’s conventional thumb piano sounds as reinterpreted by Turner’s playing beneath the bridge on Phantom 3; and the abrasive sound worlds navigated in the succinct, coda-like Fracture 3.