AMN Reviews: Kyle Motl & Rhonda Taylor – Sepulchers [Bandcamp]

The four improvisations on Sepulchers are the product of a duo made up of two musicians each of whom brings a well-developed set of techniques and attitudes to their collaboration. Both double bassist Kyle Motl and baritone saxophonist Rhonda Taylor are strong individual players who often perform solo. And yet at the same time they fit together well in the collective intimacy of the duet. Like many contemporary instrumentalists, Motl and Taylor draw on what has become something of a common practice of extended performance techniques as a way of reframing familiar—and sometimes not so familiar—musical practices, the better to reveal some ordinarily overlooked or previously unimagined quality. For example, the first track on the album takes the most basic of musical keys—C major—and defamiliarizes it by pairing Taylor’s long, tonally centered notes with Motl’s rattling and grinding of the bow on muted strings. The other pieces are less allusive to conventional musical framings, focusing instead on more elemental, almost viscerally pre-musical sounds. For example, on Sin Eater the baritone sax serves as a conduit for the sounds of constricted breath and stifled cries; similarly, the title track largely keeps both instruments within a low volume, high-intensity range of pitchy noise. Gnashville ends the album on a bed of buzzing drones from both Motl and Taylor.

Daniel Barbiero