Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise, no. 33, March 1, 2004

Swiss viola player Charlotte Hug won significant accolades with her solo recording Neuland where use of extended techniques transformed her instrument through evolving sonic variations. On this new duet release, Hug extends the sonic pallet of her instrument even further. Here she is joined by Chantale Laplante, who adds real-time electronic processing to Hug’s viola and electronics for bewitching results. Laplante’s background in electroacoustic composition (including studies with Francis Dhomont and a stint at Ircam) draws Hug’s improvisations in to new territories. The five duet improvisations capture the haunting atmospherics of stretched and echoed textures that hang like gossamer skeins. Much of the time, the use of viola as acoustic sound source is morphed beyond recognition as percussive pops and scrapes plucked and bowed strings are subsumed into constantly shifting electronic layers. Unlike Evan Parker’s collaboration with electronic musicians, there is never a sense of Hug’s viola acting as source material for processing. Instead, the two create dynamic improvisations organized around the mutable placement of sound in a spatial plane, bringing to mind Kaffe Matthews’transformations of architectural spaces. This is music that seems to billow and waft rather than truly progress. The five pieces are clearly edited down from longer performances, and at times the music treads dangerously close to cinematic soundscape, with whooshing electronic washes and creaking, subterranean atmospherics. But there is enough here to draw the listener in, particularly on a piece like the closing Brilliant Arch, with Hug’s sawing string harmonics groaning against the shimmering ground of Laplante’s electronics. Like musicians such as Phil Durrant, Mark Wastell, Nikos Veliotis, and Rhodri Davies, Charlotte Hug is finding new and fertile ground for string instruments in electroacoustic settings. This release is another indication that she is well worth keeping an eye on.

Charlotte Hug is finding new and fertile ground for string instruments in electroacoustic settings…