Brooklyn’s Clarice Jensen has established an international reputation as an accomplished cellist, composer and collaborator. Her resume includes recordings and performances with a long list of heavyweights: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter and Blonde Redhead among them. She’s also artistic director of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.
Drone Studies is her second solo release. As the title suggests, Jensen has produced an album few cellists would be inclined to attempt. Featuring two pieces – “The Organ That Made You Bleed” and “One Bee” – this is a 28-minute recording you won’t soon forget. To classify these two pieces as experimental suggests that there’s something unfinished about them. On the contrary, both represent fully formed, uncompromising artistic statements.
Too dense to be described as calming, what makes Drone Studies such a compelling and positive experience is the respect Jensen so clearly has for her listeners. At various times the work is unnerving, meditative and romantic.
It is recordings like this that remind us of the mutual respect that exists between avant-garde artists and their admirers. Jensen knows her work will find its audience. How else could she create something so evolved?
The album opens with a collage of choir vocals. It is an unsettling start, one that stretches more than two and a half minutes. That’s followed by a (somewhat) more relaxing electronic drone and eventually a sharp turn into pure ambience. This third section of the piece evolves slowly. It is where Jensen most fully realizes the album’s potential.
“One Bee” is most memorable for its cello parts, played in short, quiet repetition. Before they appear though, the piece opens with a high-frequency electronic drone that serves as both a complement and contrast to the acoustic strings. The mix of the two is beautifully executed.