Scott Miller launches all sorts of surroundings and contexts at floutist Carla Rees, with the intrigue of Devices And Desires arising as the decisions made by one player begin to bend the walls and alter the hue for the other. Miller’s opening throws of tremolo noise fragments and skittery electronic crickets during “Anterior/Interior” thrust Rees into a whimpering, shivering isolation – overtone moans and stuttering high notes, receding beautifully into the sparse, isolating backdrop. A couple of unexpected drum thuds exhbit Miller’s will to inject quakes of change and disaster into the flow, while shifts from lurking bass tones to a cinematic string dissonance flip the frequency emphasis on its head: all of which adding kinks and breaks in the improvisatory narrative that Rees appears to take delight in maneuvering.
And while the dynamic is often quite liberal like this – establishing an obstacle-ridden frame of mood within which Rees is left to freely to interpret and respond – sometimes the relationship is tighter and more explicitly co-dependent. “Omaggio A 1961” sees Rees’ notes shadowed by a shimmery cyborg afterglow; a mutated electro-flute martches her every short gasp and slow exhale, like a mirror reflection that stays faithful to movement yet peversely distorts shape. “Bending Reed” also explores, quite fittingly, the flute’s timbral malleability, this time using ghostly pitch shifts and a coarse electronic sheen that makes even the most fluttery and graceful breaths sound like an ugly circuit board malfunction.
The album’s patience and sparseness is its core strength. Silence is all but the record’s third collaborator, with anxious gaps of nothing allowing for little duetting movements to be thoughtfully injested by the listener, with sound then able to re-emerge, wholly and gracefully, from the pitch black. Moments of quiet feel like the territory for meditation and forethought, and one can almost hear the players’ brains whirring in curious anticipation of the narrative course and carefully plotting how best to re-enter the conversation.