It doesn’t get much more Canadian than Kingston, Ontario. Our former national capital gave birth to The Tragically Hip (and the greatly missed Gord Downie), Bryan Adams and hockey coach/commentator Don Cherry. Even our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, called it home. Unlike major capitals like Toronto and Montreal, Kingston has remained true to its small-town roots.
Shanna Sordahl is a different sort of export. Her Radiate Don’t Fear The Quietus is a collection of solo pieces for amplified cello, customized SuperCollider software and processed voice.
It is perhaps unfair to assume that her new friends in the Bay Area improvisational music scene will appreciate this album more than her pals back home, but it’s probably true.
Described as a “meditation on loss and impermanence” in the album notes, Radiate is a major success. Its combination of acoustic and electronic drones with beautifully evocative noise represents the very best of what improv can be right now.
Track one is, for some reason, called “Tortoise Lives Long & with Purpose.” It begins as a purely electronic, multilayered drone piece. As the cello enters though, it becomes a mesmerizing study of the synthesized versus the organic.
The more accurately titled “Shapeshifters” follows. It is equal parts unnerving and gorgeous. Its foundation – a quiet noise collage – goes in and out like a faulty pair of wireless earbuds. It is the album’s best piece.
“The Strength of Blue” is another highlight. Sordahl is a more than capable cellist. This solo piece is the work of a major talent we’re sure to hear a great deal more from.