AMN Reviews: Ida Toninato – We Become Giants (2020; Dragon’s Eye Recordings)

Ida Toninato took her baritone sax into the Tank Center for Sonic Arts in Colorado, a resonant space that was originally a railroad water treatment facility. Nowadays, it is used for performances and recordings such as this one, where its 40-second reverb generates harmonics and beats that result in a unique sound and feel. Over the course of an hour, Toninato explores its properties with sax drones, percussion, and electronic manipulations. The latter she describes as “a parallel synthetic space responding to the original one, using synthesizers, beats, and effects.”

A representative offering is the title track, which includes deliberate percussion (perhaps using the metal of the Tank itself), processed sound walls, and sax themes with long-held notes, all echoing and fading together. While this approach is rather minimal in theory, in practice it provides a rich set of textures with appealing melodies and dynamics. The overall feel is cinematic and ominous, with some similarities to the soundtrack for the movie Arrival by Jóhann Jóhannsson. Burning Bright, the longest piece at 14 and a half minutes, is quieter and more introspective. Mid-range sax drones combine with subtle oscillating electronics, rhythms, and beats. The album closes with Antares, featuring quiet and ponderous sax melodies that evolve to become discordantly rolling over waves of reverb.

If you are looking to explore an artist with a unique and compelling sound, Toninato would be an excellent choice. Either start with this recording or her 2018 duet with Jennifer Thiessen.