Interbellum: Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear

Anyone who's been monitoring Flingcosound's releases to date (albums by Wrnlrd, Gore, and Cristal) would naturally expect Interbellum's Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear to perpetuate the skull-crushing style of its label predecessors. What a shock it is—and hardly an off-putting one—to discover that Interbellum is the diametric opposite of what's come before. Of course personnel and instrumentation details alone give the game away, considering that the album pairs Brendan Burke's piano and Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello in seven lyrical meditations (Burke adds noise textures and samples to the pieces also, such as brief flurries of street voices in “St. Bernard,” the voice of an elderly woman in “Moitessier Turns Back,” and the grind of a treated cello in the background of “6EQUJ5”). Though accompanying notes suggest that Interbellum is Burke's solo project, it's as much dependent on Lonberg-Holm's presence as it is Burke's.

Formally speaking, Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear is not so much classical chamber music on compositional grounds though it is so by instrument association (acoustic except for the occasional interjections of digital noise and gravelly voice murmurs); it's less rigidly structured, and the musicians allow inspiration to direct them too, resulting in stately music that feels simultaneously pre-planned and spontaneous (no matter how much it's actually the product of multiple sessions, overdubs, and edits). It's an interesting recording on purely temporal grounds too, with a quartet of four-minute pieces sharing space with two ten-minute settings and the album's obvious high point, the twenty-three-minute, time-suspending elegy “The Life and Death of Anne Zimmerman.” The six other settings are generally slow-moving and somber too, meditations that unhurriedly wend explorative, open-ended paths before fading from view, with the two musicians weaving elegiac, sometimes dissonant lines around one another. All praise to the Chicago-based recording engineer and musician (drummer and pianist) for issuing such a refreshing hour-long set, and for being smart enough to bring Lonberg-Holm aboard as his partner.

January 2009