Lia Kohl - The Ceiling Reposes Music Album Reviews

Lia Kohl - The Ceiling Reposes Music Album Reviews
The Chicago cellist duets with scraps of radio and field recordings on her bold and strangely moving second record.

What is it about a scratchy radio broadcast, encountered out of context, that captivates the senses? Woven into the ambient fabric of a song (this is a nice example, and of course this, and this, and even this), even the dullest, most quotidian transmission takes on an almost oracular gravity. Traffic update, weather forecast, stock-market report: All these humdrum sounds become charged with the possibility of meaning, even when their actual significance is elusive. They are small, cloudy windows thrown open onto another world, like a whiff of air that zaps you back to a specific beach, perhaps even a specific afternoon, from your childhood.

Chicago cellist Lia Kohl’s second album, The Ceiling Reposes, exploits this uncanny mode of transport by weaving scraps of radio and field recordings into improvisations on her instrument, along with a haphazard jumble of synthesizers, piano, bells, kazoo, and concertina. The overall effect is like a bird’s nest outside a yarn factory: a tidy cluster of chaos interwoven with brightly discordant tendrils of color.

Jamming with found sounds is, in effect, a form of collaboration for Kohl, who was born in New York and grew up in San Francisco. She began playing cello in third grade and soon dedicated her life to the instrument: youth orchestra, music camp, summertime master classes in Europe, post-college moves to Berlin and New York. All this time, though, she felt like a practitioner rather than a creator. It was only in Chicago, where in 2013 she moved to study under a performer in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, that she found her own voice. She collaborated with dancers; played on records by Steve Gunn, Whitney, and Makaya McCraven, among others; and released duo projects with Ohmme’s Macie Stewart and reed player Zachary Good. By her debut solo album, 2022’s Too Small to Be a Plain, she had developed the searching, abstract sensibility that also distinguishes the new album. Collaging together studio experiments and bits of incidental sound, she approaches the recording process almost as though it were a bonsai or zen garden, cultivating suggestive shapes from aleatory arrays of objects and forms.

The Ceiling Reposes is similar in spirit to Too Small to Be a Plain, but it marks a major step forward. Its tonal sensibilities are bolder and more fully developed, its juxtapositions more provocative; its fortuitous collisions and slippages testify to a steadfast belief in musical freedom. “in a specific room” opens the album with staticky fizz and the tinny digital chimes of a doorbell on the fritz. Kohl bows broad, assertive chords in the low end, multi-tracked beneath the sound of her fingers scraping against strings. Out of a cloud of eerie, Theremin-like tones bursts a jaunty passage of drive-time radio banter. Halfway through, she pivots to what feels like a whole new piece, pairing new-age synth arpeggios with needling cello tones and a passing nod to the falling NASDAQ; the piece fades out in a quiet delirium of birdsong.

There are no real “songs” here, but each track has a much stronger identity than those on her previous album. In “when glass is there, and water,” an elegiac melody emerges out of engine throb and Gregorian chant; “or things maybe dropping” uses dubby rhythm as a backdrop for splashing oars, free-jazz saxophone, and what sounds like someone idly trying out the drum kits at Guitar Center. There are traces of her classical upbringing in the airy lines of “the moment a zipper,” which briefly hint at Bach’s cello suites, and in her most melodic passages, like the pensive “sit on the floor and wait for storms,” her flashing attack faintly evokes Mabe Fratti. Mostly, though, pieces simply swirl like seagrass, a pointillist matrix of rainfall, rustles, and softly seesawing strings.

The most affecting moments have an enigmatic pull. At the end of “sit on the floor and wait for storms,” as bowed cello bubbles up into a roiling foam of grain delay, a man’s voice cuts through, and even though he is speaking, his tone nearly harmonizes with Kohl’s instrument: “All things, all things,” he sighs, and then, after pausing, repeats: “all things.” He sounds like he’s shrugging; he sounds apologetic, slightly regretful, maybe fatalistic. You may find yourself asking, All things what? The sample gestures at unknowable mystery; it could be an entry in a six-word-story contest.

It’s just one of many moments where a piece of broadcast shrapnel pierces the mix, to jarring and sometimes profound effect. There are snippets of classic rock and jocular shock jocks, weather reports and blasts of distorted bluegrass. Sometimes Kohl harmonizes with what she eavesdrops over the airwaves, and sometimes she lets the dial tilt toward chaos. In the most exhilarating moments, it sounds like standing outside La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House while a neighbor tunes a busted AM radio, an enveloping cocoon of drone and static. It sounds like summer in the city when all the windows are open and all the sounds in the world are playing at once and passing through you—as though you, too, were made of air, just one more vibration in a cosmic web of buzz.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Lia Kohl - The Ceiling Reposes Music Album Reviews Lia Kohl - The Ceiling Reposes Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on March 21, 2023 Rating: 5


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