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CD Feature/ maelasta: "st"

img  Tobias

Don’t some of the best things in life happen by utter coincidence? The meeting between guitarist Matthew McAllister and violinist Feargus Hetherington was certainly one of chance and maybe a duo comprised of two Classicaly trained musicians performing material from Folk music to 21st century arrangements of 20th century South-American composers could not have been planned or designed on any drawing board anyway. Whatever the exact backgrounds to their ensemble, this, their first collaborative recording, is proof of an unusual but híghly imaginative creative co-operation at the border of the popular and the experimental.

Already the liner notes reveal the spontaneous nature of this encounter: “Recorded direct to two-track” it says in the booklet and this “in the moment” aspect of the performance becomes apparent both in the energetic interaction between the players and the lively sound, which still manages to come across as spaceous. It also shines through in the fact that maelasta have staged their debut less as a serene and overly serious but rather as a joyful gathering of friends – such as Douglas Whates, whose sinister bass intimations purify the mystery-filled melody of Egberto Gismonto’s “Agua e Vinho” and Aisling Agnew, a long-time companion of McAllister, whose crystaline flute contributions are a sensible contrast to Hetherington’s distinct stroke, filled with bitter scratches and a rough sweetness. What distinguishes this album is the fresh timbral palette of the unusual instrumental combination on the one hand and the surprising, sometimes even willful, but always convincing repertoire, which the duo totally makes their own. Starting with a detailed excursion into the world of the tango and Astor Piazzolla, McAllister and Hetherington turn towards a couple of less obvious, but highly rewarding shorter pieces, including Frederic Mompou’s dreamy “Prelude 5” and a stupendously idiosyncratic renderings of “Cailin na Gruaige Doinne”: Imagine an Irish traditional performed as though it were Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, the beautiful lament drifting off into a place of quiet sonorities before returning to sad acceptance.

What strikes me most, hoever, is the fact that they have withstood the urge to cram this disc with pieces and fill its playing time to the brim just because a CD can hold 78 minutes of music. Instead, the album ends at just fourty minutes and sixteen seconds, a perfect session of exciting music. This alone is an important artistic decision and marks the debut of the McAllister/Hetherington alliance as a self-assured work interested in quality, not quantity. It is a sign of confidence and clarity about their aims that maelasta have not left this part of their project up to chance.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Matthew McAllister
Homepage: Fergus Hetherington
Homepage: Aisling Agnew
Homepage: Douglas Whates
Homepage: Natural Studio Records

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