The latest entry in Gizeh Records Dark Peak Series comes from Cellist Julia Kent and Belgium Guitarist/Tape Experimenter Jean D.L. So popular on pre-order, this release has since gone through into a second edition. Julia Kent is a Brooklyn based, Canadian cellist whose works have appeared on labels such as Important, The Leaf Label and others. She was also involved in the Mercury Prize winning album “I am a Bird” by Antony and the Johnsons. Jean D.L. is a Belgium tape manipulator and film score composer who has released on many labels, most notably Sub Rosa.
This album was recorded back in 2015 in Charleroi, Belgium as part of a video installation with actress/director Sandrine Verstraete who has previously worked with D.L. The soundtrack music was constructed with field recordings, processed guitar and cello.
The album is an aching, ambient wonderland that ensues beauty at every turn. It was built as a whole and, indeed, should be consumed as a whole. The repetition is hypnotizing, a lulling sense of calm entwined in hints of unease that flows seamlessly in and out of sleepy melodies and broken drones. Unfolding over a brief twenty-six minutes, The Great Lake Swallows cannot out-stay its welcome. Everything contained within feels necessary, each movement informing the next, a conversation between two outstanding musicians.”
“Part One” from a hushed silence cello arcs across casting shapes as another layer weaves it ways in. Noisy Field recordings of indecipherable sound create an ever flowing base for the cello to work upon. Naturally with an instrument such as the cello there is a fair amount of melancholy imbued in the music, but there is also a feeling of hope that flows from the strings. The combination of cello and field recordings give off the impression of something ever moving and its the last part of the piece where D.L.’s contribution is best noticed, with his processed guitar creating ripples of distorted sound amongst the field recordings.
“Part Two” low-end cello manipulations with sounds that warp around are paired with manipulated field recordings that, while have different sound qualities, share similar execution. This track expands on the opener which was essentially a tale of two halves and starts off with both elements combing alongside more traditional cello pieces and other sounds. The piece sounds like a mix of orchestral, drone and found sounds that together form a suspenseful piece of music with equal parts dread and intrigue.
“Part Three” a slow low volume oscillating piece that follows, much like parts one and two, its own territory. Featuring long drones and field recordings of voices talking or singing, a loop like plucking or delicate strumming of strings is joined long tendrilous cello that sounds deeply emotional in its playing. Repetition and layering are important in this piece as the two musicians continually build on the sounds are textures they are creating. The piece is always moving, but going in a consistent and familiar direction.
“Part Four” moody cello opens the track as waves crash the shore and a haunting melody rings out. The sound scape that supports Kent’s cello assists in creating an unhinged feel to the piece with its fractured sounds, static and snatches of voices. The long sustained notes of the cello carry much weight of the sound of the instrument. The pace is slow and thought out with emotional heft as the layers of the cello get more pronounced as the track goes on and the intensity ever so rises. Arching sounds either of the processed guitar or possibly even cello manipulations, cascade across like a fighter plane flying at great speed. This brings in another element that becomes a focal point and is almost a melodic tool.
At twenty-six minutes the release leaves you wanting more. Each individual piece is connected to the others, but they all have characteristics that set themselves apart. I have tried to find some visual accompaniment to the music to see what effect the visuals had on the music and what sort of narrative there was, but all I could find was the video below which does not have the music. The two musicians work well with Kent having the upper hand, such is the nature of her chosen instrument and you hope that on the results of this that the two collaborate sometime again. With a title such as “The Great Lake Swallows ” you would be thinking of being dragged deep into the darkness. Thankfully that doesn’t happen, rather Kent and D.L. take you exploring darkness, but leave a little light for you to find your way out.