Review: Luna + Tarnovski – S/T

luna_tarnovski_coverThis record was built upon an “impromptu collaboration in front of a sleeping audience”. As musicians, how do you navigate that? Obviously there’s the sense that to wake the crowd from slumber would be undesirable. Rude, even. Yet unlike other experiences of being in the vicinity of someone asleep – where the ideal is to make no noise at all, thus becoming aurally invisible – Laura Luna Castillo and Jara Tarnovski want to be heard, but just: to press against the membrane of sleep but not puncture it. Ideally, these sounds should be perceived as residents of the dream world, and to cast the illusion that it is the listener who is guesting in this realm, as opposed to the sounds of corporeal reality intruding upon the private visions of the imagination. It’s all about intimacy and respect.

As a wakeful listener, I can only speculate over their success in this aspect. The duo’s movements are slow and tender, with soft hums of electronics rolling in from the left and faint loops lurching to my right, co-existing despite their disparate navigation of time (one at tectonic speed, the other trapped inside the infinite recur a single moment). Overtones float toward the edges like blood swirled delicately into bathwater, drenching the faint, uneven clatter of a rollercoaster in ascent, or blurring into pools of droning voices and brass; the imagery is blurred and ambiguous, compliant in being stretched and squeezed by the loose interpretations of a dozing mind, avoiding the vivid colours that might blow their cover as intruders from the world outside.

Yet the duo don’t make the mistake of equating sleep with unadulterated bliss. There is melancholy here. The harmonies often feel anxious and unsure, while some of the loops manifest as quietly persistent haunts, dwelling upon a whimper of voice or the unpleasant squeak of an old gate, making organs mimic the eerie whistle of wind through tree branches, with darkness unfurling without the quell of wakeful rationalisation. By running a streak of doom through a music that moves with meditative grace, Luna and Tarnovski enact the paradox of sleep as both a liberation from worldly concern and a playground of diurnal distress: a refuge within the theatre of the imagination, albeit one that casts inner doubts as phantasmagorical supporting actors.