Saltland - A Common Truth

by Rob Taylor Rating:10 Release Date:2017-03-31

The cello is an instrument of sublime beauty. Its rich, deep textures, powerful yet capable of a myriad of emotions, from subtle intimation to waves of turbulent excitement. Rostropovich playing the last movement of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Berliner Philharmonic under Karajan always stays with me as an exemplar of the instrument’s infinite grandeur and expression. 

Rebecca Foon, using organic, sampled and processed cello, presents a song cycle, a series of auditory representations about the state of the earth during a period of climate change. Far from being weighted down by ponderous doom-filled ambience, the music on A Common Truth celebrates the diverse riches of the earth, as if to reinforce what might, in time, be lost if we plunder resources and ignore irreversible climate trends. By maintaining a smooth legato line on the cello, and adding electronic loops, violin and pump organ droning, Foon cultivates a powerful and intensely ravishing soundscape which sits comfortably between modern classical composition and experimental ambience. 

The production is brilliant, allowing for every nuance, a flicker of fire in the trail of her compositions even as they fade into new segments. I wonder if collaborator, Warren Ellis has contributed his soundtracking expertise, because one can easily conjure a flotilla of topographical images encapsulated by the music.  

Foon uses her decorative voice sparingly, not exactly sotto voce but still languid, hanging above the cello line, and sharing with the cello its transcendental quality. Most of Foon's singing to my ear is wordless, layering and amplifying the principal instrument. Warm, sonorous, weighty, solemn, sustained and lustrous. Qualities that Foon and her instrument share commonly.

I’m naturally suspicious of music’s ability to put across complex socio-political messaging, but Rebecca Foon, having devoted much of her life to environmental activism, and equally to chamber and post-rock (Set Fire to Flames), has been able to insinuate her environmental concerns by the subtle delivery of edgy minor chord interruptions over a beautiful legato line.  

Quite honestly, one of the year’s best. 

 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars