12 mary halvorson 7fnaaSearching for the Disappeared Hour
Sylvie Courvoisier; Mary Halvorson
Pyroclastic Records PR 17 (pyroclasticrecords.com)

Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and American guitarist Mary Halvorson are distinguished members of an emergent elite, technically brilliant, creative musicians whose work freely combines improvisation and global musical materials. Searching for the Disappeared Hour – its fold-out graphic presents eerie gouache renderings of clocks by artist Dike Blair – achieves a startling, even utopian, elegance, merging their precise articulation, lyric sensibilities and refined timbres with Halvorson’s strange electronic pitch-bending and Courvoisier’s percussive invention breaking through the refined surface. 

There’s a hint of hypnotic unease in Halvorson’s opening Golden Proportion, matching obsessive repetition with a dissonant undercurrent. Courvoisier’s Lulu’s Second Theorem postulates a common ground for bop phrasing and spectral harmonies, while her gorgeous Moonbow constructs a series of imaginary worlds in sound. The fluid dance of Halvorson’s Torrential might be the perfect complement to scenes from Fellini, until the sepulchral thrum of a piano bass note, suggesting Ravel’s infante défunte, anchors the glassy upper-register runs. Halvorson’s fondness for the clash of quarter tones against the piano’s fixed pitches is particularly lush in her own scores, as if the disappearing hours of the title might be measured in the cycles per second of her bending guitar pitches. In the improvised Four-Point Play, Courvoisier’s rhythmic knocks and clusters become the unpredictable element while Halvorson’s rapid runs become the constant.

There’s a sense of the uncanny here, as Courvoisier and Halvorson seem somehow simultaneously to perfect and reveal new sonic worlds.

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