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SN Variations, SN9

British classically-trained cellist Lucy Railton and jazz keyboardist Kit Downes first crossed paths while studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London and spent the following decade collaborating in various groups while exploring their own distinct paths. Railton hosted Downes in her albums (the most recent one, «Forma», Portrait GRM, 2020) and guested in Downes’ albums (the most recent one «Dreamlife of Debris», ECM, 2019). Railton moved to Berlin, where her embrace of electronics was leading her in new directions, exploring microtonality, psychoacoustics, and synthesis while Downes was focusing his work on the organ.

In the fall of 2017, Railton and Downes met again in Iceland to record «Subaerial». They traveled around the southwest region of the country, visiting many churches before settling on the warm, resonant acoustics of the modern Skáholt Cathedral. There they decided to create and improvise music spontaneously, embracing the immediacy and unmediated rapport they developed over the years. The seven pieces were culled from the three-hour session with only edits breaking up bigger chunks of improvisation. The suggestive cover artwork of «Subaerial» was done by Swiss-German painter Maya Rochat.

The phenomenal church pipe organ at Skáholt Cathedral with the unique, spacious acoustics of this church contributed to the untimely, meditative but irreverent spirit of «Subaerial». Both Railton and Downes incorporate ideas and techniques taken from their work with electronics, spatialization and uncommon tunings in order to enrich their palette of sounds and colors. The music flows naturally as Railton and Downes are totally attuned to each nuance of the improvisations. Both flirt with solemn, melancholic drones, dissonant and disorienting sounds and reserved, emotional peaks. Obviously, Railton’s sound is more grounded than the ethereal sound of Downes’ pipe organ but this sonic contrast actually suggests an impressive unity. A minimalist and graceful ritual where this contrast creates countless sonic multitudes that eventually accumulates into a holistic journey, bigger than its parts, in a way, just like the Zen ensō circle.

A transformative and most beautiful listening experience.

Eyal Hareuveni

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