James Weeks - Windfell [Another Timbre - 2019]Windfell is an example of extremely sparse, episodic, yet at times decidedly haunting-to-oddly playful modern classic composition/ sparse improv for a single violin and fleeting vocal elements. The 2017 piece was penned by up and coming British composer James weeks, and is sonically realized by Canadian Violinists Mira Benjamin. The release comes in the form of a CD on the always dependable Sheffield based label Another Timbre, coming in the labels house style white gatefold packaging.
The single track offered up here comes in at the fifty-nine minutes and forty seconds mark- and really this is the violin at its most pared-back, controlled and considered. The piece begins with a series of almost dull harmonic scarping/ sharpening tones- these rather felt almost deftly folk-like, but of course in a very barren manner. As we move into the work we find a blend of sudden slicing dwells and silence- the notation has both a semi shrill yet almost rasping quality about it, with Benjamin playing creating this sort of hovering and hazed quality- which seems to sit between three hauntingly harmonic notes, which are both piercing, yet atmospherically mysterious. As we move towards the quarter of an hour mark the hovering dispenses, and the scaping/ sharpening element reappears- these work out their patterns for a bit. Fairly soon the more sustained dwells return once again, and these are joined by moments of simmering sustained vocals of Ms. Benjamin, as see picks out certainly notes to dwell on- it’s a most strange & surreally ethereal moment. After this crescendo we drop down into more playful flicks, scapes, and darts of the instrument- which for some reason brought to my mind a few fishes dart & dancing on the side of a boat, trying to get back into the sea. The remaining half-an-hour of the track moves between whistling hovers and more formal harmonic/ shrilly heroic dwells,which see the vocal elements retuning- but this time they feel less bright & more lost/ despairing.
I can certainly say they are some great, goose bump inducing and hauntingly magic moments occurring through-out Windfall's runtime. I just feel as whole hour-long work it often felt too episodic & lose in it’s unfold, with at points my mind drifting away from the pieces sparse sonic landscape to the sounds of the world around me. There’s no doubt about this is a headphone and extremely quiet listening place album. And as usual with Another Timbre releases the sound quality, and the player's musical skill is top-notch- I just felt maybe the piece could have been shorter, or possibly broken into several parts- as I feel that really would enhance & focused the great qualities we have present here. Roger Batty