Review: Mari Kimura - The World Below G And Beyond

Many of these pieces showcase Kimura’s use of subharmonics: a bowing technique that can take the violin to a whole octave below its G string. It’s not difficult to tell at which points this is being utilized. The violin cuts into guttural whirrs that sound like some sort of computer malfunction, emphasized by the slight pause that precedes each burst. Of course, there’s the chance that Kimura’s technical prowess in mastering this technique will be overlooked if it’s incorporated into these pieces as a glaring gimmick. Occasionally that’s the impression I get, but often her playing style allows for it to be integrated quite naturally.

Kimura seems to view her instrument not only as a compositional tool, but also as a sound source to be played with and pushed beyond its supposed boundaries – the “Six Caprices For Subharmonics” demonstrate this most effectively, with transitions in pitch and speed sending the music into an emotive dance, juxtaposing frenzied leaps and arpeggio flourishes with slower, more graceful movements. It’s during these pieces that the subharmonic element is less brash and frequent, and the moments at which the instrument does descend into an earthy subharmonic croak are well judged. Pieces like “Subharmonic Partita” don’t run quite as smoothly in my view, collapsing into jarring halts for the sake of incorporating notes below G.

Elsewhere, Kimura presents her compositions using violin and computer, twisting the sound of the violin into even more bizarre shapes. Glissandos are manipulated to cover unnatural pitch ranges, sliding in surreal slurps and occasionally becoming reminiscent of ghoulish, B-movie horror soundtrack (in a good way). The closing collaboration with vocalist Thomas Buckner is interesting, but perhaps a bit long at 8 minutes in length. Being a substantially more layered piece than the rest, it manages to fit in here rather effectively, though even the endlessly diverse, timbre-twisting abilities of both musicians begin to feel tiresome from 5 minutes onwards.

The compilation does well to highlight Kimura’s willingness to re-invent and experiment with her instrument, even if this can appear to descend into novelty on occasion. The World Below G And Beyond feels like a summary in a sense – a means of wiping the slate cleans before embarking on new work. I don’t know for sure whether this is the case or not, but I look forward to hearing how she chooses to stretch her instrument next.