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If Lost Tribe Sound were tasked with inventing the ideal musical leviathan for the label, experimental cellist Alder & Ash would perhaps be the crowning achievement of such an undertaking. The framework of such a beast would be formed of heavy creaking timber, the beating heart of the creature - labored and thumping along steadily like an ancient, ill-timed metronome. The strong limbs would be held together by signews of lamb gut and metal, able to reach out in calm and caress, yet also capable of lashing out in brutal fits of devastation and frustration.
Exploring similar themes as Alder & Ash’s latest album ‘Clutched in the Maw of the World’, 'Psalms for the Sunder' thrives in opposing extremes. As the title suggests, 'Psalms for the Sunder' is a study of downfall and collapse. The work explores the boundaries, the desolation and despair, among the edges of things come undone. In that tension and space it finds not only cacophony, violence and decay, but also bittersweetness and calm.
If all this sounds a bit intense, you may do well to just have a listen or duck out now. As this is not the safe path to Yo-Yo-Ma style laments, gracefully pondering some past love affair. ‘Psalms...’ takes a far more rugged approach, an ugly retelling of the human condition, utilizing the cello not only for its beauty, but also for its aggressively commanding sensibilities.
Technically speaking, Alder & Ash use only cello to compose. The range of voices on the cello is truly remarkable, not only with smooth legato and pizzicato, but also extended techniques like percussion against various parts of the cello, scordatura (detuning strings), string scratching, col legno (striking strings with bow), ponticello (metallic and shrill overtones).
'Psalms…' immediately shocked us at headquarters when we first heard it. Sadly overlooked when self-released in 2016 by the artist, LTS realized it must be given a proper introduction to the world by reissuing it in a handcrafted physical edition along side the brand new full-length ‘Clutched in the Maw...’. As the fearless writers of the music site ‘A Closer Listen’ mention “Alder & Ash is one a handful of performers who choose to investigate the full potential of their instruments. As foreboding as the set may be, the music also includes moments of tenderness…some pensive and some angry, but all confident and strong. This is a suite of dust and chalk and the ascendence of the grey.”