Rosalind Hall and Judith Hamann – Gossamers

Rosalind Hall and Judith Hamann - Gossamers, faint spider's web-like design against a blue-green background.

“Gossamers” is the first recorded release from saxophonist Rosalind Hall and cellist Judith Hamann, both of whom are based in Melbourne, Australia. Both musicians use extended techniques to push their instruments beyond their conventional palette of sounds — indeed, I listened to the album several times without realising that there was a saxophone involved. Although the label describes the record as consisting of three compositions, the way the tracks kind of flow into one another, picking up where the last one laid off, makes me think that perhaps they are excerpts from a single live performance.

The album opens with low buzzing crescendos and diminuendos, and the wave-like surging continues as the duo move on to high-pitched scratching and whistling. The mood is tense, but not fraught; rough and sonorous are heard one after the other, or sometimes simultaneously, in the same sound. Gently lapping waves are broken intermittently by piercing lighthouse glares that continue into the next track, where pinging clangs contrast with low shivering murmur. After the tautness of the first track, here things turn drowsy, tossing and turning in disturbed sleep. The final track is built around a repeated pattern of three double rings, maintaining a subdued quiet before petering out at the end.

“Gossamers” is full of buzzing, thrumming, screeching and wailing, but not in a wild or uncontrolled way. Rather, the sounds are focused, sharpened to a needle point, jarring and unsettling in strangely beautiful ways without coming across as stereotypically aggressive or furious. The album’s title, which denotes a material at once incredibly fine and incredibly tough, thus seems appropriate. I once read a definition of meekness as ‘strength under perfect control’; by this definition “Gossamers” is meek in all the right ways.

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Rosalind Hall

Judith Hamann


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