About twelve months ago this writer witnessed a collaboration between cellist Anthea Caddy and sound artist Thembi Soddell closing one of the nights at the Now Now improvised music Festival in Sydney. Immediately the mood of the night changed, Soddell’s dark soundscapes immersing themselves around Caddy’s textural scraping of her cello. It felt more theatrical than some of the previous performances, the lights darkened and the duo seemed to be improvising less around technique and more around mood. It was haunted house improvisation, gothic experimentalism as Caddy personified the creaking floorboards, the rising tension whilst Soddell embodied some kind mischievous yet immensely powerful presence. Iland is their subsequent release and it continues in that dark vein, immediately apparent in the dark minimal packaging, and the initial dramatic sweeps of cello and ghostly electronic accompaniment via Soddell’ sampler.
Caddy delights in torturing her cello, scraping sometimes mournfully, sometimes violently across the strings, overwhelming the listener texturally with her extended technique. Soddell utilises treated field recordings to fill the space around her and to subtly alter our experience via tonal manipulations. Of course she also not so subtly alters our experiences via her penchant for rising crescendos and abrupt ruptures as well as extended excerpts of silence. Techniques she has previously utilised to great effect on her two previous solo releases where she repeatedly explored the violence and suspense of dynamics.
Though Soddell retains control of the mixing, Caddy’s presence offers more than a textural counterpoint. The sounds the two utilise do feel incredibly enmeshed, the sense of space feels more dramatically realised and there is a certain controlled minimal aesthetic, where the two seem to be using the bare minimum range of sound and textures, which they dutifully explore before moving on to the next.
Bob Baker Fish