Aug 20, 2010, 09:06AM

Katt Hernandez's Noisome, Vexing Unlovely

Check it out at Baltimore's own Ehse Records.

Sequester a dozen or so amateur or professional violinists in a green room. Deny them refreshments. Force each musicians to sample 60 to 75 seconds of the following three albums, via iPod: Blood Lightning 2007, by Burning Star Core; Way Blank, by Axolotl; and Unlovely, by Katt Hernandez. The result, in my imagining, is that our hypothetical focus-group would be able to handle the violin noise of Burning Star Core and Axolotl: the former comes across as mesmerizing, hypnotic, and not especially discordant, while the latter is so steeped in lava-lamp, psychedelic electronics that it’s almost relaxing.

And Katt Hernandez? Katt Hernandez would have these conservatory musos freaking out, losing their shit, breaking for barred exits and hurling themselves through them. Unlovely (Eshe) is the kind of recording that’s guaranteed to cause string players to break out in hives: it’s itchy, wrong, under-treated violin scrapes and swipes. Bows lacking the requisite amount of Kaflo Light Violin rosin, bows battering strings, bows inveighing at kamikaze angles. Bum notes. Bum notes that aren’t hastily corrected, but instead explode into entire cataclysmic constellations of more bum notes. Unlovely forces you to consider these whimpering, hinge-squeak tones - often in mirroring, noisome duplicate - to contemplate the similarities between the quavering, quailing butchery of a held note and those painfully distressed, lingering scenes directors Marc Caro and Jean Pierre-Jeunet tortured viewers with in Delicatessen.

Sometimes her playing is reminiscent of those cutting Arrington de Dionyso sax segues where he can’t seize a note, and we’re left with the halting, arresting sound of breath shooting impotently through a wind instrument; sometimes her gray, sour trilling erupts into a stirring gestalt, like a sudden breeze whipping a pile of dead autumn leaves into a dizzy frenzy. But Unlovely is never boring, predictable, or safe; it accepts and exploits the possibilities and potentialities of the violin is a way that’s nothing short of astonishing.


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