Songlines

The ability to depict the convergence of different states of the soul is probably Robin Holcomb’s most distinctive attribute, and it’s demonstrated in style on The Point Of It All, one of her finest artistic statements to date. Influences are discernible – Charles Ives’ superimpositions of dissimilar harmonic planes and early American folk in particular – but the results are hardly imitable; Holcomb’s mélange of theatre and dance music, old hymns and improvisation demands our utmost attention, and that we forego our need of archetypal structures and forms. Talking Pictures (guitarist Ron Samworth, trumpeter Bill Clark, cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff) have been working with the pianist since 2006, and their relationship with her and Wayne Horvitz, who’s featured almost exclusively on Hammond M3 here, has reached a point where, to quote Holcomb, they’ve become “great interpreters and extrapolators” of the material. The program includes pieces by Samworth (the conclusive, wonderful “The Rain”), Lee (“Against The Drift”) and an intriguing reharmonization of Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush”, but nothing beats Holcomb’s peerless patchwork of transversal counterpoint flowing into touching openings and the modest dignity of song, characterised by her trademark vibrato. “Electrical Storm” is perhaps the album’s high point, the epitome of the deep, magnificent vibe this classy release transmits for well over an hour.

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