Sunday, June 10, 2007

Audrey and the Donkey Duo

Donkey Duo & Audrey Chen @ The Red Room, Baltimore
Saturday, May 9, 2007

Hans Fjellestad: analog synth and effects
Damon Holzborn: electronics

Audrey Chen: cello, voice

This was my second chance to hear Audrey Chen perform, and I'm even more convinced that she has developed a rich sonic vocabulary that is uniquely her own. She also possesses an amazing ability to improvise and adapt to any collaborative environment.

Her solo performance at the start of the evening left my ears hungry for more. Her vocalizations are a human cry emerging from the rich droning sound of her cello. And when she began using words and language she was so quiet that one's ears were drawn in even deeper into the sound to find the meaning only to be confronted by the passion and beautiful rage lurking behind the brief episode of poetry.

Donkey Duo then followed with a long electronic improvisation. Analog synthesis leaves plenty of opportunity for tactile fiddling with knobs and connections and Hans Fjellestad took full opportunity to explore that aspect of his sonic sculpting. Damon Holzborn confined his movements to the drawing pad and a small panel of knobs connected to his laptop via firewire port. There were occasional periods of pulse within the meandering cloud of sound and they did explore a nice dynamic range. But like a lot of electronic, signal-oriented improvisation, it tended to veer into the self-indulgent as traces of conceptually promising territories would emerge briefly, only to be passed by. Leaving only an imbalance of interesting sounds without form or development.

The final performance of the evening was a collaborative trio between Donkey Duo and Audrey Chen. The amplified resonant chamber of the cello along with the screeching voice integrated into the electronic haze and added a rich vitality to the sound.

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