Patrick Cornelius is the name of the collaborative effort between bassist Patrick Derivaz and violinist Cornelius Dufallo. Their purpose in coming together was to explore the possibilities in pairing instruments of two differing registers in a semi-improvised session. Each composer supplied material, which acted as a stepping-off point. Effects and looping stations were used to alter the output on the fly. After recording, the finished pieces were “assembled,” to use the artists’ own word, out of that material. Derivas notes: “Our creative meeting ground turned out to be a meditative, quasi-hypnotic aesthetic in which variation is slowed to a nearly imperceptible rate.” The seven tracks here, covering just over 45 minutes, have a new chamber music feel, conveyed through a blend of simple intimacy and complex chemistry. Derivaz’s “nearly imperceptible” variation metes itself out in repeating lines and loops that render into a kind of minimalist sensibility. This lets the less rigid improvisations curve and spin and take the listener in unpredictable directions. It’s like a playful perversion of a neo-classical aesthetic, retaining something of the formal air of composition but then tearing into it with discordant runs up the strings, scraping and scratching and challenging the ear with high notes, yet always falling back toward that established baseline. On “The Limp,” for example, a short phrase on high strings is established and set to softly repeat, working its way in and out of the proceedings. Derivaz and Duffalo then ride over the top of it, the steadiness of the phrase holding fast against the freeform explorations. “Not Sure Yet” finds Derivaz setting the foundation with a strolling bass line. Duffalo fills the air with wispy violin sighs and pizzicato textures. “Middle Ages” features another meaty bit of bass as the duo lay out a sort of loping pavane, a tipsy little dance with a light jazz air.
At first I thought Bass Violin was going to stray too far into avant territory for my tastes. To be honest, there are some discordant passages that bring me right to my tolerance border, but I’m always pulled back at the last minute. It’s a pleasure to listen to these gentlemen pulling every possible sound out of their instruments, and the back and forth between them is very engaging. Well worth a listen even if you’re not a new music fan.
Available from Spectropol.