Review: Elena Kakaliagou – Hydratmos


The title of this record is the Greek word for “vapour”, and each of these one-take pieces for French horn is a contemplation on this transitional state between water and air. Just as in evaporation, this elegant concept disperses itself into many manifestations. Kakaliagou’s whispering acts as a midpoint between speaking and breathing; moist echoes of reverberant spaces are illuminated by melodies like searchlight into rain; spoken sentences slip in and out of shape, with words unbounding into spittled breath or taut hissing before resuming the form of language. Just as in condensation, Kakaliagou collapses a multitude of thoughts and interpretations into a single moment of performance, into a chosen note, just as the warm potentiality of the breath fastens as droplets to the horn interior.

Aptly, the figure of the solo French horn adopts a certain “hovering” quality. So often supported by other instruments in an ensemble or orchestra, the sound of the horn alone instigates a sense of mournful lack, a state of sombre unrequitement. This is particularly apparent during the heavy fanfare of “Slow Trans”: prolonged calls melt gradually into nothing, and the player quietly ingests the absence of reply before the horn announces itself once again. Again this is a semi-state, vaporously held between the silence of contemplation and the two-person dialogue required to render a conversation. Similarly, “Ascending” circles a five-note pattern without ever locking into the self-embrace of outright repetition, the two ends of the loop never quite touching. Nothing on Hydramatos feels fixed. The room grows and shrinks as echoes adjust in size accordingly, while Kakliagou moves beautifully from emphasising the raw materiality of her instrument – the valves, the tubes – to the picturesque abstraction on “One who never saw the sea, but had shells instead of ears”. As in vapour, the record resists definitive allegiance and finds refuge within infinite possibility.