I’m always thrilled when I have the opportunity, amidst so much new talent that I’m exposed to regularly, to discover an artist’s work, an experienced septuagenarian, for the very first time. Four of Swedish composer (and Renaissance woman) Catherine Christer Hennix‘s works are nicely showcased in this co-released collection (a volume of writings is forthcoming via Blank Forms) of Selected Early Keyboard Works.
I find it quite interesting when unknown creatives who have been better known as scientists, visual artists, mathematicians and philosophers (like Hennix) are brought into the light of public consciousness, especially when they have worked on their craft for four plus decades with little recognition. This is all so much more satisfying (to these ears) when the focus is on the minimal. As a youth Hennix also worked at Stockholm’s pioneering Elektronmusikstudion (EMS), where she helped develop early synthesizer and tape music.
Opening with Nouvelle mode des modalités I’m instantly transported to a fictional space, as in space age sci-fi. Her tones are concrete, with glistening edges, as they tumble like dice thoughts of the cult classic Zardoz dance in my head. One could easily imagine modern dance choreographed to the futuristic style of this resilient work. The piece is nearly eighteen minutes in length, so it has plenty of room to scatter its paced animated chords and fractured structure. Bright light shines into an otherwise spare atmosphere, and the result is a swirling nu-classical/experimental jazz hybrid with unexpected signatures that delight at every turn.
This is continued on Nouvelle mode des modalités II where the mood is a bit more dislocated and its core has dropped an octave or two. It’s acoustic yin/yang it seems. Restored and mastered by Stephan Mathieu, one of the hardest working composers today in his own right, there is such delicacy to the balance of light/dark and the range of notes never seems harsh. On part two there are rock inflections like the early repeating string doodles by The Who – listen closely. It’s got that groovy 70’s free spirit built into an otherwise pliable electronic composition.
The Well-Tuned Marimba kicks off like a straight forward look back at the retro sci-fi of Logan’s Run, it’s crystalline fantasy-scape is bedazzled with a chiming, glassy feel that is utterly irresistible. It simply dances in the dark, spotlit, hypnotic. Towards the midpoint of this lengthy composition a slightly higher tone is layered, creating an atonal chasm in the proceedings. That eventually shifts to a nearly cloned second layer that mimics the dance of the earlier tonal lilt, and a parallel is formed, just slightly off register, trying to catch up but instead trickling away and returning. Being a nature lover it reminds me of the early migration of butterflies here in Texas. A subliminal trip the light fantastic.
Equal Temperament Fender Mix brings a unique conclusion in it’s stretch of nearly twenty-five minutes. The piece is a performative live sketch, as though Hennix is drawing lines in the sky with a Rhodes and a tape delay set-up, turning those keys inside out. The fervent melody seems to speak of an uncertain state-of-mind, like a scorned lover, an impassioned goodbye. She plays the keys so fluidly the whole sounds smoothed, elastic. I was fortunate to already have heard her two-hour long set, Live At Issue Project Room back a few years ago, and remember this most notable style.
Here there’s a unique wobble in parts which reminds me of some local Mexican sounds. It’s both warm and idiosyncratic. This is a Fender bender if there ever were one, yet it’s done in such a sensitive way, becoming fairly trance-inducing by its magically stroking final chords. A completely mesmerizing set. It’s her time now + it’s out today.
This review is part of Womens Work Week – a celebration of international women working in experimental and electronic music genres. If you enjoy this review you may also be interested in one of these additional releases that we are covering this week on Toneshift.net:
- Catherine Christer Hennix | Selected Early Keyboard (Scotland)
- Kajsa Lindgren | Distorted Worlds (Sweden)
- Yoko Ono | Warzone (Japan/US)
- R.A.N. | Şeb-i Yelda (Turkey/Germany)
- Ipek Gorgun | Ecce Homo (Turkey)
- Map 71 | Void Axis (UK)
- Sonae | Wearing Black Remixes (Germany)
- Olivia Block | 132 Ranks (US)
- Vanessa Tomlinson | The Inside Space (Australia)
- Julia Reidy | Beholder (Australia/Germany)
- Jlin | Music from Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography (US)