AMN Reviews: William Parker – Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics (2018; Gotta Let It Out)

William Parker is a legendary bassist and composer who is virtually impossible to not come across when exploring the New York creative music scene. It is not often that he eschews his instrument of choice, but on Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics, he joins three like-minded individuals (Jeff Schlanger, Anne Humanfeld, and Leonid Galaganov) in a waterphone quartet.

What is a waterphone you ask? According to Wikipedia, it is a “type of inharmonic acoustic percussion instrument consisting of a stainless steel resonator bowl or pan with a cylindrical neck and bronze rods of different lengths and diameters around the rim of the bowl.” A small amount of water is usually placed in the bowl. The result is an instrument that can be played for percussion or bowed. It produces shimmering, alien sounds that have been widely used in movies (especially in the horror genre).

Here, Parker and his friends explore the sounds and techniques of waterphones for nearly 70 minutes. There is no shortage of banging, clanging, and ringing that together build up an impromptu rhythm section. But even more interesting are the contributions from bowing and rubbing. These metallic squeaks, squeals, and wails provide for a discomforting affair. Not exactly haunted house music, but that label is not far off.

By and large, this is a free improv album, albeit one with rather unique instrumentation and sound. Parker and company rarely stick to any particular rhythm for long, and there are no melodies per se. Instead, each track is a series of loosely related motifs and phrases that build upon each other into a surprisingly cohesive whole. But perhaps the biggest surprise is that all of the diverse sounds on the album come from just one type of instrument, rather than a roomful.

One of the more interesting and singular releases of 2018.