I am constantly bowled over by the depth and breadth of Susan Alcorn’s work. Working with cellist Leila Bordreuil and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock on Bird Meets Wire, interesting and exciting new avenues are unlocked and explored. The trio’s music is, at times, discordant like a shock to the system. These often revelatory tonal combinations grow into distinct worlds where anything seems possible, yet everything is slightly off.
Dense cello drones grind out a path below on the title track, Bordreuil patiently carving out a new way through the thick dust. She stretches notes out to infinity while Laubrock’s sax dances intricate shapes via unexpected arpeggios. Alcorn’s gentle pedal steel plucks find lush harmonies beneath the others’ clouded veils, a light focusing forward and eventually drawing both Bordreuil and Laubrock into a beautiful, lyrical dance.
The improv sessions that bore Bird Meets Wire create their own language, some of it familiar, much of it new. Chilean protest song “El Pueblo Unido” becomes a surprising jumping-off point, building the stunning “Cañones (El Pueblo Unido)” into an enchanting, unifying soundscape. Laubrock breathes out staccato rhythms while Alcorn marches on plucking her pedal steel. Building to a melodic peak, the piece blooms into a mournful lament rife with sorrow and despair. It’s a powerful, surprising take on such a classic piece of music.
Throughout Bird Meets Wire, all three musicians are given space to explore and lose themselves. “The Fourth World” pushes on with Laubrock’s saxophone shrouded behind bountiful clouds put forth by Alcorn’s methodic aural movements before breaking through like knife-edged sun rays. Bordreuil and Alcorn whip up a gloriously clanging, scraping racket on “Is Is Not” when Laubrock’s sax becomes possessed and she exorcises the most guttural, ugly sounds. With all three instruments pointing in different directions, it’s dizzying and wonderful.
Bird Meets Wire is a triumph of what’s possible when artists come together in surprising combinations and let each play to their strengths. Boundless ideas flow from this rippling sonic mayhem and with so much left to explore, I hope they’ll come together again for round two.
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