Known for her organ repertoire featuring minimalist chordal structures, on Living Torch Kali Malone embarks on an exploration of timbres via recordings of trombone, bass clarinet, drone box, sine wave generator, ARP 2500 synthesizer, modular synthesizer, and the Pure Data program.
This album of two long and rich eponymous pieces was commissioned by Portraits GRM, managed in collaboration with Shelter Press, specializing in experimental music, and INA GRM, the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, whose research focus is sound and electroacoustics.
Given Malone’s sound manipulations, the identification of certain instruments when listening could be misleading. But the presence of breathy notes, as well as the pressure and release of strings, contribute to building a certain imaginary orchestral ensemble.
On “Living Torch I,” breathlessly played, flayed notes seem to come from a bass clarinet. A drone box produces dark oscillations throughout this haunting, subterranean piece. The oscillations continue on “Living Torch II,” but plucked strings played in a loop are added: this combination evokes the hurdy-gurdy, a medieval string instrument played with a crank. The blast of sustained, synchronous notes is a probable duet of bass clarinet and trombone. Then the melody rises to a crescendo of static distortion, creating a multi-layered cacophony.
The album manages to make us appreciate these textures of sound while evoking the illusion of linearity. Without impatience, as if under hypnosis, listening to it is like observing long threads generated ad infinitum, winding on themselves or stretching into the void.