Distant Intervals is the debut album from Brooklyn cellist Issei Herr who records multiple layers of overdubbed cello to create wide vistas of sound that constantly shift and change like clouds moving across the sky. Herr was classically trained at Juilliard and this album was composed during a time of change as they not only moved away from traditional classical music but also began the process of gender transition.
‘Prelude (An Eternity of Light)’ announces the album in the way the sun appears at dawn, with that initial glow, then the first rays of sunshine as the cello makes tentative sounds and ghost notes that slowly grow into softly bowed longer phrases. This flows into ‘Aubade (The Farewell Is a Beginning)’ (Aubade being a morning love song and the opposite to a serenade which is played at night) which begins to add more harmony and rhythmic pizzicato pulses.
The sound of children and electronic bubbles accompany ‘Aria (I Stand by the Reflecting Pool and Remember)’, ‘Elegy (As Soft Night Marches In)’ has the feel of a crepuscular forest, evoking the creak of trees and the crackle of foraging animals and this is followed by ‘Toccata (Kisses of Earth)’ with its transcendent sliding notes over the gentle pulse of an electronic beat. There is a cinematic breadth to ‘Interlude (Sunken Citadels)’, a shimmer to ‘Serenata (To A Hidden Moon)’, and the sonic mille fois of ‘Fugato (Night’s Transfiguration)’ before we finally come to rest on the coda to ‘Aubade’ with ‘Aveu (The Beginning Is The Farewell)’ which transports us skywards into noctilucent twilight clouds with heavenly accompaniment provided by mezzo-soprano Maria BC.
Issei Herr uses the cello to elongate time in the most beautiful way with multiple suspensions of notes creating a landscape where resonant low notes can slide in and out of phase with the high notes. Like watching waves constantly rolling into shore, or the everchanging patterns of a log fire, you never quite get purchase on anything so it’s best to acquiesce and float along with the whole.
Distant Intervals allows the cello, and its digital manipulation, to act as a conduit for so many notions such as introspection, disquiet and transcendence. If you want to pause the world for 40 minutes and get some mental refreshment then, like me, I hope you find the sense of tranquillity at the heart of the album utterly intoxicating.
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Review by Paul F Cook
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