Michael Patrick Brady

Music

The Yelm Sessions | Eyvind Kang

May 2, 2008

Eyvind Kang

Today, the good people at ALARM Magazine saw fit to free my feature on violinist/composer Eyvind Kang from the confines of print and allow it to be disseminated on the web. You should still buy the magazine: lots of good content, plus some top-notch art direction.

I spoke to Mr. Kang way back in November, if I recall correctly, and the release of ALARM #30 led me to revisit both The Yelm Sessions which was the main topic of our conversation and Athlantis, his musical setting of the renaissance writings of Giordano Bruno.

The Yelm Sessions was a nice aural accompaniment to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road which I crushed in a day last weekend (reviewing books has even sped up my pleasure reading). The book is full of dread and tension, but also moments of tenderness and subtle beauty. The same could be said for Kang’s album. “Hawk’s Prairie” in particular stood out to me as particularly evocative of the action in the book; a vast wasteland of harsh, stabbing squalls that implies an ambiguous predatory danger.

It’s a really wonderful album, very challenging but not without its share of relaxing, meditative moments that allow you to take a breath and enjoy the journey.

Athlantis is a somewhat steeper climb, the Latin chanting and medieval arrangements painting a much starker and harder-to-grasp picture. Other reviews have made reference to the high-contrast horror of the monolith scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Ligeti’s Requiem invades with a cacophony of indeterminate voices. It’s portentous. It has gravity that inspires fear, mostly through our recognition that there is an articulation occurring that we cannot decode, and so our minds fill it with the worst things we can imagine. I definitely thought of that scene when listening to Athlantis.

Without a knowledge of the language or an insight into the works of Bruno, it’s hard to appreciate Athlantis on anything other than its musical merits, relegating the vocals and lyrics to an instrumental role. In this regard, it’s an engaging and curiosity-piquing listen.

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