AMN Reviews: Elisabeth Harnik & Paal Nilssen-Love – Tangram (2020; Catalytic Sound)

Pianist Elisabeth Harnik and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love recorded this session in Milwaukee during the Okkafest 2014 (remember live music?).  Put out as a member’s only recording on Catalytic Sound, the duo gains some needed recognition. Consisting of two long tracks, this set appears to be largely or fully improvised.

Harnik is classically trained and yet shamelessly experimental. She combines structured rolls and rhythms with note clusters and jagged pounding across the full range of the keys.  This dovetails nicely with Nilssen-Love’s active, start-stop percussion style. Indeed, they challenge one another to go further and further outside, jumping off into extended techniques when warranted. This results in palpable tension throughout the recording which is especially centered on Harnik’s staccato variations. Nilssen-Love rattles and bashes metal in addition to drumming, but even the latter is far from conventional.

Tangram is a fun and challenging release, coming highly recommended to fans of piano / drum free improvisation.