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Music

Ellen Fullman & Theresa Wong: Harbors (LP, Room 40, August 2020)

If you’re like me, then you’ll read that this record features Ellen Fullman on long string instrument and Theresa Wong on cello and electronics and you’ll immediately try to imagine what a long string instrument might be. Just how long are the strings you’re imagining? Pretty long? If you’re like me, then you’re probably falling a fair way short. Fullman, who studied sculpture at art college, stretches metal cables across distances of up to 30m, and then plays them with rosin-coated fingertips. In the videos, there’s something strangely hypnotic about watching her walking in slow motion along the wires, delicately stroking them. Look:

There’s something pretty hypnotic about this music anyway. We are, of course, squarely in drone territory. Fullman’s epic device provides resonances and harmonics that (pseuds’ corner alert?) strike me as unplaceably otherworldly and yet, simultaneously, familiar on some deeply primal level. Wong’s cello provides a counterpoint which grounds us in something more directly musical, at least by comparison, and her laptop weaves everything together into a coherent whole. (Incidentally, but I can’t help wondering whether all those mics are a sound engineer’s dream or their nightmare.)

And here’s the thing: When put into words — or, at least, when put into my words — this all sounds a bit dry and difficult, right? But it really isn’t: it’s warm and organic and welcoming and involving and I mean, okay, I’m not saying it’s going to be troubling the charts, but for my money it’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year.

I bought this from the label’s Bandcamp page (on Bandcamp Friday, so they waived their fees to the label, yay!).

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