Personnel: Julia Kent (cello, electronics).
On her fourth full-length album, Asperities, cellist Julia Kent continues to explore the dynamics between humanity and nature, but this time out, the focus is on conflict, be it internal, external, or international. The nine pieces on the album are tense and brooding in a way unheard on her previous solo recordings, occasionally peaking in thundering bursts of fury. Titles such as "Flag of No Country" and "Empty States" imply distrust in governments and a disillusionment with the state of the world, and the songs (especially "Empty States") are caustic to match. The album's compositions for cello and electronics rely less on field recordings than on Kent's previous work, making it feel stripped-down in some ways, but also fuller, more direct, and more cohesive in others. Even more so than before, the tracks are intense, dark, and arresting, and they radiate beauty while reflecting on discomforting, troubling subjects. The most electronic track, "Terrain," adds crunching, industrial-leaning beats and growling, vibrating bass tones, pausing for breath at its center before briefly returning to the lurching rhythm. The album's prettiest song, "Heavy Eyes," starts out calm and sparkling, but soon descends into a deep sense of melancholy, gracefully expressing regret and hopelessness. The swooping, diving strings of the striking "Tramontana" conclude this spellbinding album. ~ Paul Simpson