There are so many aspects of corners that make it a singular, special entry in Catherine Sikora’s stellar discography. I talked to Sikora about the concept and experience of creating these pieces in this interview, but to quote from the release notes: corners was recorded in the Brooklyn Navy Yard on a beautiful Sunday in May 2021, as part of BAM Presents 1:1 Concerts© at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Curated by Silkroad. Each piece is a separate performance, played for one listener. I played from noon to 6pm, in that time giving 14 short concerts for 14 different listeners.
Three things about corners continually stick out to me. First, the quality and emotive heft of Sikora’s performance is entrancing. As soon as those opening notes of “Warrior ii: Return Home” slowly rise like distant specters, swimming through the resonant emptiness of the space, I pulled inward. These sonic reflections are charged, filled with virtuosic runs laden with a mix of catharsis and contemplation. Certain sections of “Border Crossing (denied)” jump between the two in the blink of an eye as Sikora threads the needle.
Second, the reverb of the space where corners was performed and recorded is intoxicating. It imbues each of the 12 pieces on corners with a glow that heightens Sikora’s playing and the textural quality of her sound. I’ve always been enamored with the way she uses space and silence as another instrument in her compositions, and on corners, those moments shine. Pieces like “Gratitude for Breath” and “Sun Clouds, Helicopters” feed off this spatial energy and the result is music that sticks with a tangible feeling. Sikora is always so good at playing this way, but corners highlights that in new, fantastic ways.
Lastly, there’s an almost-obvious intimacy to these pieces that the setting of one-to-one performance brings. Sikora mentioned how formal it felt in our interview, and that makes sense as there’s a sharp line between performer and audience. But that one-on-one aspect, too, adds an air of vulnerability to these songs. “Sometimes, Acceptance is Better Than Love” sounds like a quiet afternoon in the heat of summer, each winding run flowing from Sikora’s saxophone coming off like a secret admission let loose. What would normally be a whisper builds into a bombastic crescendo.
If I close my eyes and turn corners up loud enough, it’s as if I’m there in the room myself. Sparks fly with each progression leaving impressions in the ceiling. I continue to be hypnotized by Catherine Sikora and her distinctive tone and approach. corners is a massive statement by an artist who continues to push herself and in that drive finds countless directions of new growth.