Review: Ellen Fullman + Theresa Wong – Harbors

ROOM40.

If Fullman’s Long String Instrument can be likened to the sea – splayed drones that glisten and undulate, filling up the entire field of experience – Wong’s cello is a lone entity looking out upon the water, her bowed tones carving through the coastline on a slant, like the diagonals that emerge as the eyes perceive depth of field. The LSI wraps around this individual, eschewing all notion of harmonic centre. Each note is rendered as prominently as those above, below, on either side, hung in perfect ambiguity and potential. As an overtly dynamic presence weaving through the drones, the cello introduces hues of mood and narrative, beginnings and endings; finite figures drifting through Fullman’s plane of endlessness, occasionally as low whirrs and elsewhere as pipe-esque overtone whistles. The album is inspired by “the soundscapes, stories and atmospheres that manifest around bodies of water that propagate exchange”, which would cast Wong as the churn of human activity, and the rolling projections of mythology, upon a landscape that stands both drenched in transient meaning and beautifully ignorant to it.

The LSI is anything but motionless – not least because of the harmonics that pulse along the in-betweens, but also as Fullman shifts through tidal cycles of coming and going, thickening the lattice of pitches and then reducing to an array of faint peripheral markings. Wong’s outline becomes harder and softer accordingly. She melts into Fullman’s louder flourishes, camouflaged like a bird in the reeds, then jolts to the foreground in a succession of plucks and scuffs as the LSI draws back. That Fullman and Wong have cultivated this work over five years and numerous performances is clear to see. Not only does Harbors hum with the history of its imagined landscape, but these recordings also weigh heavy with a collaborative understanding that has accrued over years of deepening acquaintance.