Review: Anne Guthrie – Codiaeum Variegatum

Anne Guthrie - Codiaeum variegatumThe sounds of nature are not merely overlain; not draped like thick blankets over horns and violins that jut out in protest at poor placement, forever pulling away from the field recordings that never fully fused in the first place. Landscape and instrument writhe within one another; ivy curls out of a brass bell, twigs crunch as taut bow presses them into strings, and squeaks of oaken friction project into the skies to battle and dance with birdsong, met with the jubilant acrobatic swoops that suggest that Guthrie’s presence is welcome and yet positively agitating; conflicting and energising, like flint struck on steel. I can almost see her squatting there – face patterned by the shadow of branch lattices, rocking her violincello on a bed of autumn leaves and dry dirt.

The tension continues as Codiaeum variegatum transits into public spaces: cavernous construction projects in gigantic metro stations, consumer conversation in small shopping centres. It’s as though the instruments and environment have established a proximity that has long past the point of no return, with whimpers of bulbous tone wedged in the side of a body of nasal industry. At points, there is a dissonance – fizzing like a Dictaphone, warm like old vinyl – that pits two instruments together like feral creatures in a cardboard box, pressing elbows into eachother and quivering in threat of mutually assured attack. Yet instead of recoiling back into comfort, Guthrie leans into the friction and jabs the drones in further; a choir of scaffolding ghosts scream as a low bowed note penetrates through closing track “Persists Into Winter”, which drifts ominously through the concrete echo like a ship through ocean-top ice. Her execution is dry and visceral – a hand plunged into soil and wet cement.