Julia Kent – Asperities
The Canadian cellist's fourth album is a masterclass in tonal diversity, expressionist narrative and finespun drama. Perhaps best known for her work with Antony and the Johnsons, Kent has also played with Rasputina and Swans, and cineastes will be familiar with her contribution to Paulo Sorrentini's 2011 film This Must Be The Place. But it's her solo work that is worthy of the greatest renown and Asperities (definition: harshness of surface; an affliction) is an artistic leap of some magnitude. Cello aside, Kent utilises found sounds and electronics to build texture and mood. In the purity of its construction and its emotional heft, Asperities is a deeply satisfying reworking of classic forms.
The Leopard's mournful sweep and Hellebore's cool minimalism are affecting and hypnotic. Invitation to the Voyage dispenses a multitude of simple, urgent motifs, casts them away, returns to them, conjures a breathless drama. Tramontana's dissonant counterpoint is a rare sidestep: Kent cares little for shock value. By the time Terrain introduces electronic percussion and the mood shifts from plaintive to threatening, Asperities' fullness and freedom is staggering, its eloquence something to behold. As accessible (and equally reverential) as the work of the American composer Alan Hovhanhess, and as much a part of the here and now as the warped electronica of Laurel Halo, Kent operates in an artistic netherworld that straddles – or simply dismisses – accepted genres. Recommended without reservation, Asperities is an edifying and invigorating spectacle. [Gary Kaill]