Review: Jessica Pavone – Silent Spills

pavone-coverSometimes I forget to be grateful. When I’m feeling distracted or impatient, my ears start to blur sounds just as tired eyes soften shapes; I hear the overall shape but start to reject the nuances within them, casually allowing the nourishment of total experience to pass me by. Sometimes I need a record like Silent Spills in order to reset myself; a release that takes each gesture one at a time, lingering on the circumstances that bring each moment to be, and depriving me of certain musical devices so that I might greater cherish their eventual return. Pavone achieves these sensations with just a viola and a small handful of FX. Her decision to mute the strings or activate distortion pedals feels fatefully exact, as if the only way to progress into the future is to exhaust an appreciation for the present tense. Only once I have fully explored the beauty of a particular gesture does Pavone carry me somewhere else.

There’s a moment during “Shed The Themes” when a high violin note wanders the air in search of a harmonic partner, repeating one note like a question persistently posed to emptiness. Pavone makes me dwell in this harmonic neglect for a whole minute – waiting for me to empathise with the note, perhaps feel sorry for it – before a lower pitch slides in like a warm embrace, reframing the higher note as the gleeful major harmony in a simple symbiotic duet. It hits me like warm food during winter fast. Prolonged absence leads me to appreciate this gesture as if for the first time. Similarly, Pavone’s voice appears only once (that is, if we are to discount the audible sounds of mouth movement and occasional nasal breath). During “Dawn To Dark”, her song dances upon pizzicato like stepping stones, uneven in spacing and playful in tone, vanishing into a sudden surge of distortion and never returning, like a child running inside when the rain starts to fall. Everything is beautifully spaced and beautifully timed. From the pluck of a single string to the panoramic arc of amplifier feedback, I never doubt the right of Pavone’s sounds to occupy the present tense. They belong here as much as I do, and the longer we share company, the more we learn about one another.