Turning up the volume to hear Pulling Strings clarified everything. It is a genderless pas-de-deux with strings. Muscular, dramatic and straightforward.
To imagine the gestures accompanying the articulation of all of these resonant tones takes no effort. Every time the strings are touched, vibrancy radiates. I am in the midst of the artistry of Michael Bisio on bass and Tomas Ulrich on cello.
The music takes off in a bowing fury at the very beginning of the recording. Then the two instruments diverge so that the difference in their tonality can be detected. The cello arches vigorously into a single line as the bass supports it, eventually to introduce an Ellington melody in a way that is unusually gripping.
An entangled conversation between the two instruments continues seamlessly from one track to the next. The nature of the textures maintains the pull to listen. The range of improvised variations never ceases to entice. The two musicians exude stamina and an ever-flowing vocabulary of motion. Two stringed instruments generally can have great power over the listener. This cello and bass elicit seduction, the blues and an invitation to comfort. But raucous, dissonant and unsettling sounds also occur. The musicians reach for extremes. High pitch to low. Pure tone to screeching. Broadly-based tunes to complex abstractions.
The cello launches into rapid and direly expressive torrents of sound, which are whipped into silence with the rip of a bow. Ulrich mixes avid plucking with bowing in a notable balance. When he does adhere to the bow, Ulrich stirs up clarity and commitment to issue out nothing less that an engrossing voyage through a breathtaking soundscape.
Bisio plays the bass openly and widely. The timbre of a solo track is mild yet serious. I have never heard before the kind of snapping vibrations coming from this pizzicato. The bass rolls out the rug for the cello. The bass is reliable, sturdy and awake and matches all the passion of the cello in probably half the number of notes. Bisio is technically precise and mindfully attentive to his partner in this extraordinarily intimate musical dance.
At the conclusion of the recording, I can feel in the musicians a readiness to conclude. For the recording has been one continuous take. I have audibly witnessed a truly live performance.