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På skive


«Searching for the Disappeared Hour»

Douglas Adams wrote in «The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy» that «time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so». New York-based idiosyncratic improvisers pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and guitarist Mary Halvorson paraphrase Adams’ immortal saying and make up for the lost time during the Covid-19 pandemic in their sophomore album «Searching for the Disappeared Hour». This album highlights the restless, searching tendencies of these imaginative improvisers who suggest innovative ways of blending the sounds of the piano and the guitar, adding an insightful and sometimes subversive perspective on the history of the piano-guitar duos.

The debut album of this duo, «Crop Circles» (Relative Pitch, 2017), focused on repurposing existing compositions for the duo context and was recorded after a single concert. The new album offers music composed specifically for the duo and relies on the close chemistry and intimacy forged during tours in Europe and the States. It was recorded in June 2021 at Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon.

Both Courvoisier and Halvorson, according to their testimonies, have an affinity towards darkening things and both like to mess with seemingly joyous melodies and clear harmonies. Each of the 12 new compositions and free improvisations enriches their kaleidoscopic vision. Halvorson’s «Golden Proportion» sounds like a stream of consciousness of puzzling ideas, but cleverly quotes Beethoven’s «Moonlight Sonata». Courvoisier’s «Lulu’s Second Theorem» corresponds with Halvorson’s ideas, and adapts the paradoxical theory of Edwin Schrödinger to a series of playful games. «Moonbow» was composed by Courvoisier and Halvorson and draws its inspiration from a mistake during the recording of «Crop Circles», transformed now into a brilliant and provocative conversation between two sonic explorers.

Halvorson’s mourning ballad «Faceless Smears» was penned on the dramatic day of Congressional hearings for the misogynist and arch-conservative, now-Supreme Court Justice Brent Kavanaugh, and suggests her singular sense of melody and harmony. Her «Torrential» is a folk-inspired song that highlights her subtle usage of effects, as well as both Halvorson and Courvoisier’s distinct abstractions of the melody. Halvorson’s «Bent Yellow» continues the clever and elusive, constant shifting games of her and Courvoisier. And «Gates and Passes» suggests Halvorson’s singular sense of time, often suspended, sometimes silenced and almost frozen in the air.

Courvoisier’s «Mind Out of Time» and «The Disappearing Hour» relate to the skewed relationship with time that we’ve all endured over the last year and a half. The intimate and chamber «Mind Out of Time» contrasts Courvoisier’s thoughtful playing with Halvorson’s associative and sparse lines. «The Disappearing Hour» follows the same vein but in a more urgent and tense mode.

Three pieces were spontaneous improvisations. The «Four-Point Play» with Courvoisier playing inside the piano and Halvorson’s thorny note is the edgiest one. The meditative and beautifully resonant «Party Dress» takes a completely different course; and the last, ethereal piece “Blizzard Rings”, dissolves into the air as the hour draws to a close.

«Searching for the Disappeared Hour» delivers one of the best spent hours of the last year.

Eyal Hareuveni

Sylvie Courvoisier (p), Mary Halvorson (g)

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