Hugh Marsh – Violinvocations

‘Violinvocations’ wears its instrument on its sleeve, but this record contains so much more than the singular sound of a violin. This upcoming February release from accomplished violinist Hugh Marsh includes eight exploratory and experimental pieces of music from his Los Angeles days. Taken from his daily recording sessions, and created over a span of six months, ‘Violinvocations’ is wraith-like, its eerie, incorporeal tone sitting among cobwebs and crackles.

Described as a ‘suite of stream-of-consciousness tone poems’, Marsh’s music is exhilarating in both its emotional and musical advancement. The record’s forlorn opening – the melancholic ‘I Laid Down In The Snow’ – helps to deepen the experience, sending the listener deep into a strange and fantastical world. The violin almost mews in prolonged agony, cutting in and out of the mix with a deep aching, its warbling tones vibrating uneasily in a spell of still air. The background remains calm, but the violin’s unusual tone intrudes upon this calm; the atmosphere slants and bends at angles never before seen. A pale ghost of a violin emerges, and in this phantom state, it’s almost impossible to recognise the face and features of the instrument. Its thin slivers are almost at a breaking point, a sound on the verge of snapping.

Armed with a range of effects and a degree in electronic archaeology, Marsh delivers a stunning set, unearthing a blazing solo that Van Halen would admire, and creaking, queasy sounds, like a stomach that’s eaten too much Christmas pudding. The almost-robotic and extremely exotic vocal on ‘Miku Murmuration’ is an awakening in full flight, coming across as something spiritual, like a call to prayer. Its song is a raga at sunrise, its Middle Eastern and Indian phrasing lighting up the album with a warm, glowing circle of light, elevating it to a space beyond with its synthesized, processed song.

No two tracks are ever the same, but there’s an impressive emotional weight embedded within its playful music. Its surprising cartography and emotional depth moves the music into unknowable areas. The music may feel overt and alien, but its sounds are comforting and deeply calming. Retaining that calm in the midst of the record’s uncertainty may be Marsh’s crowning achievement.

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