Amirtha Kidambi & Luke Stewart “Zenith/Nadir”

The fierce scream of now. That’s how an article in the Jazz Right Now blog described an Amirtha Kidambi and Luke Stewart live set, and that’s as apt of a description of the music produced by these two creative musical stalwarts as any. Kidambi’s voice runs through the entire cycle of human emotion, from calm to chaos. Whether she’s singing with her band Elder Ones or vocalizing freely, she emits an unrelenting fervor that is both graceful and passionate. Stewart’s bass seems to be everywhere in the creative music scene, and this is evidence of his flexibility and the visionary nature with which he approaches his instrument. Whether he’s deploying his hands or a bow, he continually searches for new modes of expression. Together, this pair is capable of invoking deities and captivating open ears.

Zenith/Nadir, the pair’s debut duet recording, is an exercise in dualism: it juxtaposes noise against clarity and naked acoustic resonances against electronically generated textures. It’s the A side of the cassette where electronic sparks fly in all directions. The four-song cycle balances shards of deep growling and rays of static over Kidambi’s elegiac howl. Her voice takes on a distorted texture as if it’s been tossed on a gristmill to be processed into fine grains of sound. A sub-bass rumbling sends periodic shockwaves upward, fracturing the higher frequencies and rupturing space-time. You can hear Stewart’s bass at times, but it’s obfuscated by the swirling clouds of electronics. That’s okay because his energy is felt, like a bioluminescent being radiating photons from the depths of a swirling sea.  

On the flip, the pair lay themselves bare. Here, every pluck, strum, and slide of the bow is on display. Every cluck, trill, whisper, and moan. Kidambi and Stewart are locked in an endless dance, twirling around each other. Freely improvising, the depth of their collaborative pairing shines brightly. Duo pairings are often open and spacious, with room to breathe. This triptych of acoustic tunes is no exception. Kidambi’s vocalizing is pleasant yet resolute, while Stewart’s bass keeps pace. Neither one of them overruns the other, and when Kidambi engages in some guttural gesticulating, Stewart is alongside deploying his own brand of glossolalia. This certainly is the fierce scream of now.  

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