Thanos Chrysakis / Chris Cundy -Music for Chamber Organ & Contra Bass Clarinet

(Aural Terrains)

By coldly naming the album with the mere instrumentation, Chrysakis and Cundy declare right away their intention of not providing the listener with clues linked to definitions or labels. Even after having glanced at the musicians’ curricula — which include several surprising collaborations — determining a so-called stylistic context for these five tracks remains one of those exercises that render a reviewer’s life a little tougher. At any rate, there are certainties: no pseudo-tunes (or hints thereof), no lines to memorize, no easy concessions. And there’s so much to learn when we finally decide to abandon the “necessity of classification” mental mode, just immersing ourselves in the very sounds. As always, the real teachings are not given by words.

On paper, the timbral pairing might appear a bit problematic. But when an improviser’s inclination respects both the partner(s) and the silence from which everything is born, conflicts vanish, notwithstanding dissonant clusters and clashing harmonics. The introvert character of these pieces is at the same time unambiguous, in that Chrysakis and Cundy know from the beginning where they’re meeting: a place where room exists for a clarinet to express its potential via quivering tones, contingent fragments and jarring metaphrases. Where an organ can certainly generate a discordant drone lasting full minutes (“Part III”) while completely erasing the possible liturgical references through the utilization of infrastructural micro-repetitions and hidden patterns. There are no visible handles to grip, and the pages of this imaginary score are turned in the less expected moments. In all cases, when a track ends we feel more puzzled than before.

This uncompromising work grabs the attention thanks to unexpected subtleties, spurious vibrations and atypical resonances. In a way, it stimulates a reflection about its bare essence rather than the overall aesthetic value; the latter, however, is also a factor to take into serious consideration. I have properly listened to it a number of times, and the reason of my attraction still can’t be found in the closet of logical constructions.