Gareth Davis and Frances-Marie Uitti - "2 Am" (Gramercy)
Reverb, like a spoon full of sugar, can help some strong medicine to go down. Bass clarinetist Gareth Davis and cellist Frances-Marie Uitti are a pair of American-born, European-based, New Music-associated instrumentalists whose merged address books could hook you up with Steven R. Smith, Mark Dresser, and the late Giacinto Scelsi. You might not expect their collaboration to find release on a label primarily associated with the not terribly demanding atmospherics of Jasper TX or Kreng, but they’ve managed to come up with a record that has something for both their followers and Miasmah’s dark nail-polish-wearing fan base.
The record opens fairly late night. Uitti’s cello on “2 am” strikes some Eastern European dissonances while Davis slowly ululates; it’s like an ECM Records treatment of the age-of-coal vibe that Davis’s old mate Smith achieved on his Hala Strana records. The next track, “Felt,” is even more reverb-swaddled, so that high, keening sonorities seem to echo from some clean and distant place. The treatment might take the edge off, but there’s enough sharpness left to hook you. By the time we get to “Cold Call,” Davis is working in the same breath and spittle zone as Axel Dörner or Mats Gustafsson, but once more leisurely pace and liberal echo render it eerie rather than bracing.
The album pivots on the lengthy centerpiece “Detours,” which gives ample space to Uitti’s double-bowing technique. Her ability to play distinct parts with two bows isn’t just some parlor trick here, but essential to the piece’s layered coloration. And while the production once more takes a bit of the grit off of the duo’s sounds, there’s still enough roughness in their woody tones to make you watchful of splinters as you feel their grain.