AMN Reviews: Austin Larkin – Violin Liquid Phases [Bandcamp]; Hannes Lingens – Nachthund [Umlaut Records UB011]

What can solo recordings for violin and percussion, two very different orders of instrument, possibly have in common? Just this: a willingness to explore the creative possibilities of sound production, wherever they may lead.

New Haven violinist Austin Larkin describes his Violin Liquid Phases, a long album of eight pieces for solo violin, as a treatise on his performance practice. And there is something of an etude-like quality to these contemporary sonatas for unaccompanied violin. Larkin’s approach is to establish a gestural or harmonic template based on bowing rhythms, string relationships, or drone-centered harmonies, and then to develop it through the introduction of gradual changes of generally increasing complexity. Larkin’s exercises are firmly rooted in pitch relationships that work through vertical stacking and shifts of single voices against constant foundations; the effects are often hypnotic but are endowed with enough harmonic movement to create dynamic moments of tension-and-release.

In contrast to Larkin’s pitch-based explorations, the three long tracks on German percussionist Hannes Lingens’ Nachthund are more purely sound-based. Lingens’ is a variety of minimalism that strips its raw material down to essentials: a single cymbal played with mallets or a bass bow. From these rudiments, which are put under a microscope through close recording and in one instance subtly enhanced by multitracking, Lingens extracts quasi-electronic washes of sound that expand and contract within the generous bounds of broad sonic fields.

Daniel Barbiero