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It’s not a novelty that Canadian-born, New York-based trumpeter Stephanie Richards is a risk-taking artist, considering she has worked with giants of the improvised new music such as Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill as well as Kanye West and The Pixies, references in the contemporary rap and indie-rock genres, respectively.
In collaboration with the electronics wizard Dino J.A. Deane, whom she met through the late 'conduction' pioneer Butch Morris, Richards releases her first solo record, Fullmoon, a personal and conceptual work inspired on the phases of the moon, which showcases her
ability to fuse sound patterns in a distinct, uncategorizable way.
The opening track, “New Moon”, kind of tells you how open-minded and genre-defying her trade is, engulfing us in an urbane concoction of abstract avant-jazz formulas and slinky Eastern chants. There are times when it's hard to dissociate the concise trumpet ostinatos from the clamorous electronic elements, as they merge as one. This strategy is also preponderant on the following piece, “Snare”, where a perpetual buzz accompanies the sound of a brushed snare drum. Strangely, at some point, I thought I was listening to a weeping Indigenous flute.
Melodic lines are set against unbending loops to create counterpoint on the two-part “Gong”, whereas a compelling synthesis of Zen-like drones, distant percussive chimes, and wailing riffs defines “Piano”, one of the most beautiful pieces on the album. This atmosphere differs from the eminently cinematic routes of “Timpani”, whose dark ambiance includes dragging low-frequency drones and humming moans.
Besides using echoing phrases to probe new textures, the spheric “Fullmoon Part I” insists on hypnotic buzzing vibes, whereas “Fullmoon Part II” provides slap tongue sounds in a collision with ululations of pleasure or despair.
The twosome finds common threads in the instrumental navigations, revealing curious aspects in their virtuosity. Whether playing in a premeditated way or pursuing free improvisation, they make you search while offering intriguing moments that can be minimalist or complex, yet not necessarily melodic. Even if you dig exploration of sound, this work requires multiple listenings for a better absorption. - Filipe Freitas