Hauschka & Hildur Guðnadóttir: Pan Tone (Sonic Pieces)
This collaboration between cellist Guðnadóttir and piano tinkerer Hauschka combines each artist’s strengths to perhaps expected but satisfying results. Each track in this short release is named after a Pantone swatch, starting with “#283,” setting the tone pretty well. Hauschka can sometimes veer into more light-hearted or almost-pop territory, but these pieces are all tempered by Guðnadóttir’s darker, more sparse sensibility. Hauschka’s prepared piano and Guðnadóttir’s cello play cat and mouse across each of these six collaborations, starting off with a fair amount of activity on the piano, anchoring Guðnadóttir’s more freeform cello playing. “#294” continues this trend, but “Black 6” feels more like an immersion in the dark waters that defined much of Guðnadóttir’s last album on Touch, Without Sinking. In fact, Hauschka’s playing is quite subtle and doesn’t percolate to the surface until several minutes in, and then it’s affected and more like a cascade of tones and textures, secondary to the circling cello drones. It’s at this point that the release becomes less predictable; each of the final three pieces is quite different. “#304” is almost sweet in its prolonged piano projections working in harmony with clean cello tones, while “#320” deviates into less obvious territory. “Cool Gray 1” assimilates many of these dynamics over the course of seven and a half minutes, starting quite busy and then distilling progressively to a sensitive denouement. It’s a short but concise collaboration where each artist plays to his/her own and each other’s strengths, complementing their sensibilities and strengthening them into a unique sound they can both confidently own.