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Cellist, composer & sound artist Leila Bordreuil takes us deep into the bowels and liminal spaces of a deserted NYC with 40 minute long contrasting works of a tempestuous and sorely enervated nature, played on location in the subway at the Ralph Avenue subway stop in Brooklyn - complete with passing trains, people, and tension in the air.
First pinging our radar with her ‘Headflush’ album for Catch Wave back in 2019, Leila Bordreuil has a tactile, extreme approach to the cello, one that focuses on its visceral aspects in a way that mimics the most spirited, fraught and melancholy human emotions. Despite the complex nature of her playing, you can trace Bordreuil's lineage back to Arthur Russell’s defining ‘World Of Echo’ in methodology and spirit - Leila plays with no processing or effect pedals, everything stems from the player, her instrument, and their surroundings.
On ‘For Tamio’ - Leila performs in tribute to her collaborator and saxophonist Tamio Shiraishi, whose late night performances at the Spring Street subway, 10 stops away from Ralph Avenue, greatly inspired her own approach to capturing and playing with resonance in the subway. For just shy of 20 mins, she makes the air burn and buckle with a combustible grasp of loud/quiet dynamics and keening discord that has us seat-edge by the end. The setting is evocative to the extreme - the usually chaotic and bustling subway station now emptied of its usual inhabitants, reclaimed as a performance space in which Leila played late into the night - accompanied by memories and echoes of life, as well as a person living in the subway station who started dancing to her music, an engrossed audience of one.
In contrast, ‘Past Continuous’ on the flipside was recorded in Leila’s building’s hallway, where she attached a brick to the pedal of a broken upright piano and angled her microphones in a way that gave the illusion of a large reverberant room. Adding sinewaves to enhance natural frequencies, the result is a heartbeat sketch that operates at barely perceptible levels of tonality, working in a liminal space with almost hallucinatory, ghostly overtones and a colossal sub that speaks to the anxiety dreams of a megatropolis in stasis.
‘Not An Elegy’ is a grippingly stark work that owes as much to the city’s history of jazz as it does to experimental classical forms. It's an uneasy but deeply life-affirming trip through the dense fog of memory and modern anxiety, coaxed by a player whose hands shape, and whose feelings ooze through the recordings in a way that’s impossible not to be affected by in the deepest sense. It’s a remarkable document of a time, and an artist, right on the cusp.