Bonobo’s Ark 2017
Triumph of unexpectedness from proponents of chamber music, where mental effort meets happenstance.
As a senior lecturer at at University of East London, Dr. Yumi Hara Cawkwell knows the value of discipline, yet there’s a different aspect of this practice which she applies to her performances, and if album with Geoff Leigh allowed but a sneak peak of such an approach, the concert the avant-garde composer played with another HENRY COW alumnus, Tim Hodgkinson, is a master-class in emotional intangibility – something requiring a lot of discipline from artists and listeners alike. “Playing” must be a keyword here, because that was a game: the musicians sat with their backs to the audience to face a variety of instruments and other objects for the first part of the show and stood up to deliver a stunning aural installation once tension reached its apogee. Expecting any kind of release from the resulting sounds would be a mistake, though.
For all the duo’s supposed spontaneity, the appearance of “E=mc2” – a piece which keeps popping up in Yumi’s on-stage repertoire – and the mesmeric song “Walk In The Middle Of The Road” from "Statement Heels" betray the amount of preparation she and Tim had invested in shaping these pieces; devoid of visuals now, his passionate clarinet and her eerie vocals are the only voices one can connect with, the percussive rest working on an almost subliminal level. “The Offering – R Y B” may combine clang with screech, and scratch with rustle that slivers of ivories try to stitch together, but “The Revealed – The Hidden” has a cinematic fright laid out in synthetic patterns as if to defy the concept of chaos hanging over everything, “The Plot – The Plan” – the alien blues – and the short title track the epitome of deceptively disjointed reality. The existentialism will seem seamless in “Appearance / Disappearance” thanks to the presence of cosmic piano and solemn organ.
Still, it’s the meditative “Latifundia” that’s the foothold of this chamber experiment, a suggestion that there’s more then meets the eye in this collaboration which can never be repeated. Capturing the extended moment, “Schema * Sukima” is an attempt to embrace infinity.