Cello+Laptop: Parallel Paths
Envelope Collective

As direct a moniker as could be imagined, Cello+Laptop combines the cello artistry of Sara Galán and the digital manipulations and field recordings (captured in Barcelona, Edinburgh, Madrid, Murcia, Valencia, and Tarragona) of programmer Edu Comelles for fifty powerful minutes of experimental music on the duo's first physical release Parallel Paths. The title implies synergy, which the music bears out in the balance the two so effectively strike. Naturally, ample room is allowed for the cello to assert itself as the music's main melodic source, but Comelles' presence is felt as strongly in the subtle textural atmospheres that provide Galán with such a potent stimulus for her emotive playing. Though the cello would seem to be the natural lead voice in a project such as this one, the non-cello elements are equally pronounced.

The first sound we hear in “Room 102,” a live piece recorded in Madrid (the others are studio recordings made in Valencia), is footsteps, a detail that intensifies the foreboding tone of the track title, before Galán enters with accents first and then fuller statements. Though only four minutes long, the setting conjures a nightmarish soundworld that puts the listener on edge, anticipating what's to come. Less harrowing is “Remaining Parts of a Shipwreck,” which, true to its title, evokes an underwater environment in its burbling percussive effects and a requiem-like tone in the cello's slow and plaintive song. Galán's stately bowing sways as hypnotically as the ship's remains, adrift on the water's surface. The aquatic dimension is as pronounced in the wave sounds that introduce “Shoreline,” even if they're then supplanted by layers of mournful strings before re-asserting themselves, perhaps a little too conspicuously. An affecting sorrowful tone is generated in “Wanderlust” through the mournful cello plucks and bowing that emerge alongside Comelles' bell tinklings. Its title taken from a 1923 film by surrealist Germaine Dulac, “La souriante Madame Beudet” closes the album with a deeply evocative setting that makes the most of its generous fifteen-minute running time by unfolding at such a satisfyingly glacial pace. Galán's cello is heard to particularly powerful effect, especially when its multiple layers swell in such a dreamlike, haunting manner.

Cello+Laptop's ambient drones unfold patiently, unhurriedly, with the confident duo creating some of the finest electroacoustic moodscaping heard in these parts for a good long while. Calling Parallel Paths superb is no overstatement but rather wholly deserved

December 2012