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CD Feature/ Double Action: "Reaction"

img  Tobias

A little bit of punk spirit is always welcome. Classical music especially can only benefit from an album packed to the brim with new music, presented by a young ensemble and packaged with a booklet which, remotely at least, seems to have been influenced by the cut-ups of the late 70s. And it is even more welcome, when the players in question, Keziah Thomas and Eleanor Turner, have taken the task of organising the entire project exclusively into their own hands. But what makes this a truly out-of-the ordinary collection of music is the fact that we are neither talking about a new string quartet or another academic electronic outfit, but two harpists.

Possibly the best introduction to this disc comes from Dai Fujikura, who admits having been slightly “distracted” (read: aroused) by the invitation of writing a piece for two young harp-ladies. His personal fantasies came in the way of his composing duties and it was only after he watched a wrestlng bout on TV, that he was able to change the perspective and disentangle from the Jung’ean imagery of elves and blonde hair. Cliches are indeed never far when the conversation touches the harp and its performers. Which ows as much to laziness on the part of listeners and the media as to fact: After the reinvention of the instrument in the 19th century, male players have all but diappeared and the growth in new material has been slow. Of course, this has made it hard on those with a vision of their own to break with tradition. But with the advent of a new generation of harpists, the tide is turning. And “Reaction” is certainly a bolder step towards finding new means of expression than Catrin Finch’s black leather trousers (as “distracting” as they may be). A string of world premieres grace this release, which kicks off with two powerful tracks by the aforementioned Fujikura (energetic, moody, dynamic) and closes with a rendition of Lex van Delden’s “Concertino per Due Arpe” (mysterious, hopeful, delicate), one of the showpieces of the contemporary harp repertoire. Sandwiched in between are offerngs from three composers who deserve more attention. Geofrrey Poole’s eleven minute “Kakemono” borrows from Chinese music, embraces beauty and builds a flowery landscape full of deepness and harmony. Paul Patterson’s “Spiders”, meanwhile, crawl and creep from one corner to the other – these are pougnant and strangely melodic tracks hung out to dry on a barb wire. But it is Eleanor Turner herself who hits the jackpot with two impressionist miracles between fragile structures and seductive seclusion: “Butterflies’ Autumn” and “What do you see in the flames?” are programmatic, without being burdensome and ephemeral and elusive.without turning into trifles.

But this is no ego show in any way – it is the interaction between Turner and Thomas, which keeps the tension for the complete 55 minutes, without even once yielding to “commercial pressure” and going for an Irish traditional or a bit of Bach. Everything about “Reaction “ seems to say: This is exactly how we wanted it! Even though you shouldn’t expect any two-minute songs or distorted guitars, that is more punk than most punk bands will ever get.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Double Action
Homepage: Eleanor Turner
Homepage: Keziah Thomas
Homepage: Arts in Fusion Records

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