Jessica Pavone has built up quite the resume over the last 20 or so years, from solo works to duos with Mary Halvorson to contributing on pieces by Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, and Wadada Leo Smith. In the Action is her third solo viola release and clocks in at only 27 minutes. But she packs a lot of ideas into its short duration, and re-thinks the role of her instrument along the way.
Oscillatory Salt Transport begins this offering with a plaintive folk melody that evolves into discordant wails and jagged bowed sawing. and Maybe in the End is an even more experimental piece that combines plucked chords with heavily distorted processed waves of sound. Look Out – Look Out – look Out takes it one step further, with rapidly oscillating and crackling walls of noise that reach down into low frequencies. Without liner notes, it would likely be impossible to identify the instrument from which these sounds originate. The title track rounds things out with something of a return to normalcy. Pavone again invokes a rustic playing style, albeit with an intervening fuzzy loop underlying minimalistic patterns and some overdriven amplified playing toward the end.
As far as I can tell, In the Action is just Pavone, her viola, and a bunch of effects. Regardless, combining a smattering of conventional playing with a large amount of unconventional exploration, the album remains engaging throughout.
In the Action is out February 15 on Relative Pitch Records.