Review: Ida Toninato – Strangeness Is Gratitude

Ida Toninato - Strangeness is Gratitude - coverThrough the process of these solo improvisations for saxophone, Ida Toninato comes to know herself and the space she inhabits. Her instrument emits bullets of echolocation in the form of sharp, low bleats, feeling the spread and texture of the walls as her pulses collide with them. Low drones run themselves along cold stone like a finger feeling the various ridges and dents. She alters pitch to experiment with the ways in which the saxophone interacts with the surrounding air. The reverb is often thick and engulfing, and Toninato willingly strands herself amidst wisps of her own reflection, observing the various distortions of shape and opacity. There is an inherent curiosity to her process, more emotionally driven rather than scientifically so. She peers into an unknown that may be either wonderful or horrible. Her anxiety, excitement and intrepidity all feel vivid – it reduces notes to a wisp and causes others to bark in sudden, reflexive hostility. As her intimacy with the space increases during the course of each piece, her behaviour shifts accordingly.

My favourite track on the record is perhaps the most menacing. “Désir” uses a creeping two-note tilt as the basis for an investigation into harmonic shadows and crumpled breaths; the surface details that scuttle upon the notes like insects, or the overtones that emerge like glimmers of reflected sunlight.  She emphasises the bleed between the two pitches as the echo smears them together, forming brief quivers of discordant agitation that fade away as the second pitch takes over. After each repetition of the two notes, she falls silent momentarily. I imagine Toninato listening to the sound draining from the walls, like someone throwing a stone into a river and then quietly examining the intricacies of the splash. It’s a beautiful process of call and cryptic response.