Eleonore Oppenheim: Home

Home's inner sleeve credit reads simply “Eleonore Oppenheim: bass and voice,” which turns out to be a somewhat misleading bit of info, considering how elaborate its soundworld actually is; the bassist has clearly expanded on the recording's content by adding effects of various electronic kinds to its acoustic foundation. This debut album from Oppenheim, a member of the all-female quintet Victoire who has performed and recorded with, among others, Bang on a Can, Meredith Monk, Signal Ensemble, and Steve Reich, reveals the bassist to be an admirably innovative experimentalist. Modest in duration, the thirty-seven-minute release, which features compositions by Angelica Negron, Florent Ghys, Wil Smith, and Jenny Olivia Johnson (plus a sparkling, beat-based remix of the title piece by Lorna Dune), has developed over the course of many years, having been initiated as a collaborative commissioning project in 2006.

It's not your standard showcase for solo double bass playing; in fact, sans recording details, the listener might be hard pressed to identify it as anything other than a collection of experimental electro-acoustic settings. Negron's “La Isla Mágica” establishes Home's kaleidoscopic tone from its opening moment, even if its design allows ample room for the bassist to maneuver and maximize the instrument's sound-generating potential. Propulsive percussive rhythms and woodwind textures add to the backdrop's shimmering syncopation, and during one sequence Oppenheim's soft voice swoops in tandem with the arc of her bowing.

In Ghys' shape-shifting “Crocodile,” Oppenheim bows alongside ambient field recordings and a French speaking female voice, then indulges in jazz-like plucking with hand claps and staccato vocal effects as accompaniment. Of all the settings, it's Smith's boldly explorative “Heavy Beating” that most overtly identifies itself as a bass-generated electro-acoustic composition; it's also the rawest and noisiest of the pieces presented, even if the slow-burning wail of Johnson's seething “Home” gives it a run for its money in that regard. At such moments, Oppenheim's playing is hardly what one would call decorous, though that's meant as a compliment.

August 2016