Recorded in 2022 at the Neustädter Kirche in Hofgeismar, Archangel blends the potent voices of two organs, handled by Thanos Chrysakis and Peer Schlechta, with diverse clarinets — principally bass — played by Chris Cundy and Ove Volquartz. All of the musicians have extensive resumes filled with achievements and teamwork; with regard to pipe organs, Schlechta in particular is a proven historian. These five extended tracks, however, consistently prioritize collective sonority over individuality. Regardless of whether one examines their innate compositeness via headphones, or experiences the resonant wholeness diffusing from the speakers, an entirely selfless entity always arises.
The artists exhibit a predisposition for abstract timbral exploration evidently influenced by the German church's natural reverberation. Most of the interaction occurs in the low-to-medium range, yet there are also recurrent excursions into the organ's higher registers, complemented by Cundy's introduction of a loquacious sopranino ocarina in "Part V". Basically, the dynamics are divided between the droning pulse of the organs, whose mingled pitches occasionally come through as the dominant force, and the reedists' alternating held tones, brief outbursts, a speck of meditative melody, and upper partial spicing inside relatively static milieus. In sections such as "Part II-III" the organists are the ones who stir up the waves, creating less-than-peaceful environments typified by piercing dissonance.
It is common knowledge that some albums, since they defy easy categorization, might leave a reviewer feeling hopeless as they make it hard to determine the exact purpose of their content. Across several listening sessions, this writer's cohabitation with the music did create a few "hook points" for memory in the midst of a somewhat unsettling transcendence. But before declaring that the record's hidden connotations were authentically understood, there is still a long way to go. That said, there's no disputing the curiosity growing along with our confidence with the sound material. Though the secrets it holds are progressively revealed with every spin, the underlying potential of Archangel remains shrouded in mystery. Which, naturally, heightens the fascination all around.
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