AMN Reviews: Irene Kepl – Sololos [Fou FR-CD20]; George Cremaschi, Irene Kepl & Petr Vrba – Resonators [Another Timbre at104]

In one new and one recent release, Austrian violinst Irene Kepl appears in two different contexts: As unaccompanied soloist and as a composer and participant in small ensemble play.

SololoS, the new release, consists of twelve improvised solo performances. The performances are for the most part built around a limited set of motifs or techniques which Kepl develops through series of variation, some of them quite minute. She’s especially effective at creating rhythmic motifs out of insistent bowing patterns, which she subsequently colors with changing accents. Many of the pieces are densely textured with all four strings sounding simultaneously, to which Kepl occasionally adds her voice as a fifth layer.

Resonators, released late last year, is a trio recording with Kepl on violin and electronics, George Cremaschi on double bass and electronics, and Petr Vrba on clarinet, trumpet, and electronics. As the title implies, the recording was made with the acoustics of the performance environment foremost in mind; the four pieces on the CD were recorded in two particularly resonant spaces in the Czech Republic. In order to fully exploit the natural resonance of the spaces, the acoustic instruments were fortified with amplification and feedback. Feedback dominates the first track, Cremaschi’s Affective Labor, which conveys a sense of sounds drifting in an expansive space. Kepl’s two compositions stand in pronounced contrast to each other, Soma focusing on timbral variability through bow articulation and slow counterpoint, and Pirol collecting brief, frenetic fragments of pitches and sounds. Pirol’s scattering of quick sounds is quite a different thing from the piece that precedes it, Vrba’s gravely beautiful Locus Resonatus. Here strata of long, overlaid tones create ambiguous harmonies that slowly accumulate tension as the dynamics build to a very gradual crescendo. The richness of the acoustic instruments comes through most clearly, helped along by Vrba’s switch from clarinet to trumpet as the piece unfolds.

Daniel Barbiero