I have a bit of a soft spot for electro-acoustic music. There is something in the coming together of the earthy truthfulness of an acoustic instrument and the sharper edge and g0-anywhere possibility of synths and other electronic noisemakers. Take this combo and throw in an overarching air of classical chamber music and you will understand why I quite enjoy Gut + Voltage from the duo Domingues and Kane. Amy Domingues’ viola da gamba and Dennis Kane’s keyboard, guitar, and electronics work are the tools in this delicious alchemy, a mix that moves from formality to fire without blinking. I like how the electro-acoustic tone is set in the opening moments of “The Hunted Hare, Pt. 1,” as the duo let a quiet, warm electric hum hang in the air before Domingues begins constructing the melody. Kane’s piano offers a high counterpoint, and the slow dance is joined. Then comes the point where they hook me: a drop, pizzicato notes on the viola, and organ chords fresh out of a prog-rock break. Way to get my attention. This motif of building to a break and switching gears plays out several times across the album, always done well. Passion enters the equation at the outset of “Black Shuck” as Rodrigues ripsaws raspy notes from her viola and loops them into layers. There’s a sort of indie rock feel to the melody that dissipates as Kane enters with silken keys, and the piece quiets a bit. Cue the mid-track shift as piano takes the lead and the strings smooth to soft, high notes. There’s more power at play in “Evergreen,” which comes in on Kane’s flamenco-flair guitar. Brace yourself—a big, lightly distorted power chord announces a shift in form and a rise in energy. It morphs into a sort of folk dance piece with the guitar and viola trading phrases. There are also compratively simpler moments here, less augmented. On “Je Ne Fais Plus” Kane lays out a flute melody on keys as Domingues plucks through a bass complement. It is slow, quiet, and gentle. Her (I believe) unaccompanied reading of Carl Freidrich Abel’s solo piece, WKO 205, is emotive, passionate, and fluid. A classical piece left to its own voice, it is a pleasure to just be surrounded by. “Lament No. 7” is perhaps my favorite showcase of Domingues and Kane’s chemistry. Raindrop arpeggio on piano meets long sighs from the viola to craft an atmosphere that’s melancholic but still bright. A solo passage from Domingues in the break will find a direct path to your heart.
There’s so much to enjoy on Gut + Voltage. It resonates with honesty, wears its classical roots very proudly on its sleeve, and feels fresh and new. Whether it’s being passive or powerful, it commands a deep listen. A superb debut that crosses genres and deserves a very broad audience.
Available from the Domingues and Kane website.