Review: Rosalind Hall + Ada Rave – A Trail, A Texture

Rosalind Hall + Ada Rave - A Trail, A TextureIt’s as though Rosalind Hall is wielding a hand-held fan, pressing it against surfaces so that it buzzes in frictional complaint, without applying the necessary pressure to stop the blades entirely. It’s a delicate navigation of brinks and almosts – her saxophone lingers upon single notes and tilts them, ever so slowly, until they threaten to fall over. Her instrument throbs uneasily as overtones force their way into the frame, turning ovular drops of pure tone into snarls of dissonance. It’s an agonising sonic yoga routine; pitches bend into awkward poses and then hold them for as long as concentration, exhalation and muscle power will permit, the note wobbling like calves and biceps in convulsions of tension. Collapse is always a mere false step away.

It’s so captivating to listen to Hall in a state of such concentration, and I almost forget to question the strange manner in which sound navigates space. Much of this is due to the spring tube that her instrument often excites into resonance; her in-breaths suck at my right ear and yet the sound swells inside my left ear, metallic and warm, rattling inside the spring tube and smearing drones over the ceiling above my head. Again, yoga; a body reshaped and somewhat dispersed, forcing itself into unfamiliar shapes, fighting off the instinctive desire to snap back to a more comfortable posture.

On the other side of the release, Ada Rave forces metal objects to clatter and wheeze before sending them toppling over, like someone rummaging through an attic box in fruitless search of a forgotten object. The rest of the piece is a flustered saxophone rant of panted breaths, frustrated snarls and staccato expletives – an ode to lingering imbalance and bitter mood. At several points, she snorts out a wonderful cocktail of mucus and rasping nasal pathway; at others, her flurries of note crumple into empty toneless gasps, as though her instrument is struggling to keep pace with her visceral bursts.

Quickly, it becomes a desperate and anaerobic exercise. Inhalations turn to frantic gasps – desperate, like a mouth snatching oxygen as the body drowns – while the bleats of woodwind shed any residual adherence to finesse or politeness. It’s all spittle and gums, snot and bared teeth; a thoroughly feral exercise, uncurbed by the demands of social etiquette.