«The Emerald Figurines» is the first album in the year-long project of Berlin-based Bulgarian violinist Biliana Voutchkova, «DUOS2022», a continuation and development of her curated live concert series in Berlin which started in 2020. Voutchkova hosted in this project diverse and distinct improvisers and sound artists like Mazen Kerbaj, Andrea Parkins, Annette Krebs, Gunda Gottschalk and Carl Ludwig Hübsch, and plans to host during 2022 Susana Santos Silva and Angélica Castelló.
Voutchkova says that she sees music as a «freeway to our rarely remembered ways of communication» and duos define such forgotten ways of communication. The dialog is clean, clear and allows the participants in her duo series to investigate, in-depth, the way we relate to one another in the time of ongoing instability due to Covid 19 and the climate crisis.
«The Emerald Figurines» documents Voutchkova’s «deeper duo exchange» with Chicagoan drummer-percussionist Michael Zerang at the ESS/Experimental Sound Studio Chicago in July 2019 during a short American tour. The duo played several times before in Berlin and continues to develop its rich and organic dynamics.
Voutchkova and Zerang assume the roles of resourceful sound artists on «The Emerald Figurines», investigating the timbral range and the sonorities of the skins of the drums and the vibrating strings. Often, during the opening 26-minute improvisation «About the Village» it is difficult to know who is doing what, who rubs, scratches, bows or caresses what surface, wooden bodies or strings. The friction drums and the violin moan, cry, whisper, whistle, sing and talk in cryptic lingos, and keep sharing and exchanging secrets and the most personal thoughts and observations. Voutchkova and Zerang work as one sonic entity, creating an urgent but detailed and quite otherworldly soundscape, full of imaginative ideas and positive tension. The following, shorter improvisations only deepen the creative, intuitive and sometimes even amusing ways Voutchkova and Zerang connect through abstract and strange sounds. Both are fully immersed in the ever-present moment, and concluding this inspired, free-improvised set with ritualist incantation.
The GIilhamanians – Zerang and shortwave radio specialist Don Meckley were recorded at the same location in Chicago. Zerang and Meckley were formerly two-thirds of a legendary, local experimental music trio, Liof Minimula, that was active from the early eighties until the mid-nineties. After the death of original member Daniel Scanlan in 2018, Meckley and Zerang join forces again to record «Escape From Dark Matter» as a meditation on the looming climate catastrophe. Meckley utilizes a Grundig Satellit International 650 Shortwave Radio and plays with the sounds and textures from the atmosphere, while Zerang keeps expanding the sonic qualities of the acoustic drums by friction and vibration of the skins of the drums. Somehow, Zerang and Meckley manage to create their own sonic universe – literally – and converse with each other throughout five urgent pieces. The delicate acoustic sonic palette of the drum compliments and contrasts with the weird, ethereal sounds of the shortwave radio in five pieces.
The album art, by fellow-Chicagoan audio-visual artist Jean Parisi, speaks about «eight septillion stories in the dark matter of this universe. These are only five of them», and refers to the ancient Gilgamesh psychiatrists that concluded that what they’ve intercepted as an experimental «art» Mélange broadcast was made by an «emotionally blocked species traveling slowly to its doom along with the tide of dark matter». These sonic stories – including the insightful written stories – intensify the feeling of the inevitable catastrophe, more and more as this work of sound art progresses. «The universe is jam-packed with civilizations that rise and die like popcorn. Might as well sit back and enjoy the show. Sooner or later we’re all sucked back into it».
Biliana Voutchkova (vio, v), Michael Zerang (friction dr, perc), Don Meckley (Grundig Satellit International 650 Radio)