Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Sylvie Courvoisier / Mary Halvorson — Searching for the Disappeared Hour
(Bandcamp Pyroclastic, 2021, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2023-09-23
Searching for the Disappeared Hour showcases two unique improvisers in a setting that features both compositions and improvisation. Mary Halvorson is a guitarist we’ve written about frequently, many times as a member of Thumbscrew, but in a number of other situations as well; Sylvie Courvoisier has an extensive recorded history, though this is the first time we’ve covered her. She’s an inventive pianist who often plays with a very light touch, skipping over the keys with playful abandon but also capable of dense darkness. Holvorson is known for her relatively clean tone on the guitar and her fondness for a pitch-bend pedal, and that effect is used heavily here, providing a keening contrast to the acoustic piano, sliding up and down like a drunken theremin. This isn’t to say that Courvoisier plays it straight, though she has no electronics with which to augment her piano. Surprising harmonies are her playground, and she flits up and down the keyboard like a less-aggressive Cecil Taylor at times. The 12 tracks on the album were composed specifically for the project by both musicians after working with each other extensively on tours over the years. The two take advantage of each other’s strengths in the writing, and the pairing sounds very natural and organic. There is a joyful energy throughout, infusing even the quiet moments with a sense of happy discovery, as if they’re continually thinking, “This shouldn’t work, but we’re really onto something.” They are continually investigating different ways of combining their talents, and the result is a lot of fun for adventurous listeners.
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