Review: Amirtha Kidambi + Luke Stewart – Zenith/Nadir


Two improvisatory musicians camp out on the extremes in this wonderful collection for vocals and variously facilitated low frequencies, in which Kidambi’s voice flutters and stutters above Stewart’s palette of bass bow and magma flow. Aptly it’s in two contrasting parts, with the 11-minute “Exaltation” the blurry midpoint between the crumbling distortion of the first half and the acoustic voice/double bass duets of the second. The record demonstrates the unclean divide between supposed opposites, as evidenced in the players’ mimicry of eachother (Kidambi replicating Stewart’s bowing action with palpitated vowels) and how they verge on becoming a solitary hybrid texture (Kidambi inserting herself into Stewart’s wall of noise like a jagged nail). While clearly relishing the gulf that yawns between their two respective frequency bands, the two players seem to be fighting against an energetic attraction that would otherwise see them smashed into one. They’re only ever a concentration-lapse away from fusing together, indistinguishably, in the mid-frequencies.

Certain moments arrive as sudden jolts: the flat distorted “oooooh” Kidambi delivers over Stewart’s swirling cauldron of music boxes on “Circulation”, the noise bubbles and unoiled vocal seesaw on “Postmonition”…and then there’s the mercurial hush of closer “Telepathy”, which slips between melted-down jazz ballad and skittering insects and back again. The players are each continually pulling handbrake turns, wrenching away from the present idea and cutting a drastically different jag, prompting the other to recalibrate. When Stewart’s noise on “Premonition” rouses to an emulation of a helicopter, Kidambi begins to sounds like she’s being rattled by the force of the chopping blades, struck by an involuntary vibrato; on “Medium”, Stewart unexpectedly lays down some bouncy bow swoops, which Kidambi promptly uses as trampolines for whooping vowels. Unwavering vigilance is the key, and one can almost see the lines of expressive affinity that bind the two players.

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