By Blake Parker
Fil Uno’s recent release, Violonchelo Solo, is a mammoth of an album with no track shorter than seven minutes. Boisterous, deep cello dominates the immediately apparent soundscape, but upon closer listen it is clear that both gritty yet spacious atmospheres and a meditative playfulness with time are key elements in the songwriting of this album, not just cello alone.
As an experimental cellist and composer, Fil Uno created and recorded these six movements over the span of three years, releasing them in their final form in November of last year. The composition of the pieces pushes the boundaries of what is considered traditional music in contrast to non-traditional sound art. Indeed, the processing of a classically regarded instrument such as cello through bouncy, wobbly electronic effects might not be entirely palatable to some. But even more striking and daring is the recording technique itself – the entire album has a crisp sound that convincingly manifests his playing within the very same room as the listener. The movement of the bow hairs across each string is clear as can be, and Fil Uno’s very breathing (almost an additional element to each piece) is present as musical moments swell and subside.
From movement to movement, and even within an individual piece, this album is overflowing with character. Lively musical conversations ensue, with one line of melody played out and the next played in response. Vast emotional jumps can take place within a single phrase; some lines begin innocent and sweetly, then end in a scratchy, growling chortle. The album even offers a glimpse into the different sides of the instrument itself – from the familiar, formal, attractive side to the tonally contrasted and unforgivingly ugly side. When all is said and done, though, it rings true that in the hands of Fil Uno, the cello is an immensely, if not grotesquely, beautiful instrument.
As a neo-classical album, Violonchelo Solo is impressive. As an acoustic/electronic experimental album, it is the same. But as a work of amorphous art, culminating from three years of writing and three days of recording, this album should leave many in awe.