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«In Otherness Oneself»

Slovenian pianist-composer Kaja Draksler, who lives live between Copenhagen and the Slovenian village Trboje with regular visits to Amsterdam and Berlin, obviously, speaks different languages, and all these languages contribute to her multifaceted identity. She feels that she has to lose something in herself in order to let the ‘spirit’ of a new language inside her, so, in this way, she is «constantly becoming in otherness myself». This phrase, used for the title of Draksler’s solo album, is borrowed from Cecil Taylor’s poem «Aquoueh R-Oyo» (Agwé, loa of the sea) (featured on Taylor’s label’s Unit Core album, «Spring of Two Blue-J’s», 1973), named after Voodoo loa, i.e. spirit. Like Taylor, who studied Voodoo practices, Draksler refers to voodoo as an inspiration and to herself as a modern sonic shaman who takes possession of the rhythm, pulse and melody and at the same time allows the music to take possession of her. 

«In Otherness Oneself» refines Draksler’s languages, the musical ones – her distinct musical languages, the ones she composes or spontaneously improvises – intertwined with the spoken, poetic languages, and quoting iconic poetic texts. She plays with these languages, their grammar and unique sounds and phrasing, with a sense of complete freedom, and lets these languages influence each other. She alternates between the piano and a quarter-tone keyboard, programmed by Gianluca Elia, with a set-up was inspired by Cory Smythe. The album was recorded at Splendor, Amsterdam in April 2021, and the cover art by Polish visual artist Weronika Gesieka intensifies its surreal spirit.

The album begins with American poet Robert Frost reciting his poem «Away!», with Draksler beautifully orchestrating the rhythmic phrasing of Frost, relating to the coming death of the poet («…And I may return / If dissatisfied / With what I learn / From having died».) to a majestic and haunting piece, augmented by the distance singing of Laura Polence and Björk Níelsdóttir, who repeat the poem. «Downward and Inward» alters the contemplative, introspective spirit of the first piece and here Draksler resonates with Taylor’s poetic lines and creates free music «as sound within the whole body». On «Prst, roka, laket» and «Pika» she experiments with the sonic possibilities of the quarter-tone keyboard, as an alien, resonant instrument and as a vehicle for quiet, meditative spells.

«Tenis Stołowy» ornaments gently the ext of  «Dzienniki» (diaries in Polish, 1953-56), written and read by Polish anti-nationalist and absurdist writer and playwright Witold Gombrowicz. The improvised, introspective «Stratonutki» translates into suggestive sounds Taylor’s conclusion to his poem: «Improvisation is a tool of refinement / an attempt to capture ‘dark’ instinct / cultivation of acculturated / to learn’s one nature in response to / group (society) first hearing ‘beat’ / as it exists in each living organism». The last piece «Toward» is a minimalist yet melodic one that summarizes Draksler’s many fascinating identities and languages as a composer, musician and improviser, all refined, profound and inspiring ones.

Eyal Hareuveni 

Kaja Draksler (p, quarter-tone keys), Laura Polence (v), Björk Níelsdóttir (v)

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