The Quietus | Reviews | Kali Malone

The Quietus | Reviews | Kali Malone

For more than a century, proportional time has been a constant presence in philosophical and psychological studies of thinkers such as Paul Janet and William James who have formulated the concept to explain why and how the sensation of time accelerates as we age. Days, months, and years become smaller and smaller fractions of our existences, while new experiences fade into those that came before and after. Reminiscing about the onset of the pandemic in 2020, this effect is magnified tenfold. That initial period of ‘new normal’, which sometimes appeared to bring an exciting break from mundanity, today feels like a memory lapse, a nondescript progression of events whose reality you might even be tempted to question. Like Proust’s madeleines, Kali Malone’s Does Spring Hide Its Joy serves to remind us of those times.

Recorded with Stephen O’Malley on guitar, Lucy Railton on cello, and a skeleton crew of technicians in Spring 2020 at the then empty spaces of Berlin’s Funkhaus & MONOM, the hour-long composition – presented here in three variations – feels like an echo and half-forgotten memory of those moments spent in isolation and lethargy. As on Malone’s The Sacrificial Code, the music is again a monumental, texturally and harmonically rich drone that moves in waves, maintaining a dynamic presence despite its languid pace. But where that 2019 release saw the Swedish musician and composer rely solely on pipe organs, on Does Spring Hide Its Joy she turns to sine wave generators. Tuned to her own system, the oscillators allow a wider and finer range of control, from vibrating motifs not far removed from acoustic organs to microtonal scintillations that gesture towards primordial electronic synthesis. One can imagine that both Olivier Messiaen and Iannis Xenakis would admire these expressions that sit equidistant from the organ explorations of the former and the electronic inventiveness of the latter.

While Malone’s compositional touch is what ultimately dictates the shape and flow of the pieces, Railton and O’Malley’s contributions are just as important in building their mesmerising fabric. Although they surface from disparate, experimentally tinged backgrounds – Railton’s roots are in contemporary classical, O’Malley is best known for his drone and metal work – the three musicians play with a shared musical language and ardour. Especially during the opening sequence of ‘Does Spring Hide Its Joy v1’, the reverberations of Malone’s sine waves and O’Malley’s e-bowed guitar are almost indistinguishable from one another as they forge layers of humming sound, then let them drift like blue whales in the gelid waters of the Antarctic. Meanwhile, Railton’s cello circles above them akin to a dancing spider, leaving behind trails of glistening gossamer. Each of these repeated, dynamic fluctuations on the micro level contributes to a whole that shifts so patiently as to almost appear still, reminiscent of tectonic plates moving through aeons.

This heavy meandering takes the music on a journey from plains of brighter, sustained ambient soundscapes to peaky mountains that resemble harsh noise and doom, before ultimately settling into a thrilling interplay of murmuring guitar riffs and quavering electronics. Although sonically similar and composed with the same fundamental elements, each of the remaining two takes carries a distinct impression. ‘v2’ is narrower in its oscillations, but all the more incisive, with zither-like textures and guitar screams that morph into sharp pulses and tinnitus-evoking tones. ‘v3’ radiates with a sense of melancholy and loss, and makes for a fitting final manifestation of what is another triumph for Kali Malone.