Debacle

ASHLEY BELLOUIN & BEN BRACKEN - String Songs LP

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Built around exploring a set of hand-built stringed instruments, this album has been more than 7 years in the making.

About the album in their own words:

"This album was constructed with the intention of exploring the musical possibilities of twin zither-like instruments which we hand-built. Each has thirty-five strings and are approximately five feet long. Twenty-four of the strings use a standard bridge, while the remaining eleven use a "javari" bridge similar to those found on Indian tanpuras. For each piece, we focused on a specific playing technique, which then informed the shape and contours of the rest of the composition. This led us to both natural and unexpected places; sometimes in opposition to, and sometimes in harmony with the highlighted playing technique. Many of the components of these pieces existed in some form or another, in countless iterations, explored during a particularly active period of live performance. What we now present to you is a distillation of that process, and, in some way, an ode to the instruments that have given us so much inspiration these past few years. As you listen to these compositions, we hope you can both imagine our journey with them, and completely forget that they exist at all." - A & B

Album notes by Sarah Davachi:
"I've been privileged to know Ashley Bellouin and Ben Bracken for over a decade now, both as close friends and as musical collaborators, especially during my time at Mills College with Ashley when we were practically inseparable. In August of 2012, Tashi Wada and I accompanied them on harmonium in their debut performance with the intricate hand-built stringed instruments you hear throughout String Songs, up in the Marin Headlands overlooking the Pacific ocean. That was one of numerous shared musical experiences – the first public performance I ever gave was in a duo piece for pipe organ and a microtonal glass harmonica that Ashley hand-built while at Mills, which is featured heavily on her beautiful 2016 album, Ballads. What inspired me as a collaborator back then, and what continues to move me as a listener and admirer of their output as a duo now, is the incredible care and consideration that they bring to their work and the passion that they share for sound as an intimate and experiential practice. I'm keenly aware of this not just when I encounter an entire piece or performance of theirs, but also in every recorded detail and at every moment of the sound as it develops. What I hear in this music is a truly affective process of listening and suspension, and that is a lesson that I've learned from watching them work that has always stuck with me. I can't think of many other musicians who strike such a balance between intention, as in designing and building their own instruments so as to engender a specific harmonic perspective, and experimentation, which you hear in the three vastly different landscapes of String Songs. For me, the side-long "Strung Strings" in particular is an absolutely astounding moment, and takes me straight back to the almost inarticulable but deeply transformative headspace that I have always associated with their music. Though they vary in texture, there is a complementary and more delicate complexity in "Sung Strings" and "Strummed Strings", all of which are once again recorded and presented here with a precise consideration for the psychoacoustic environments they've aimed to create for the listener."