O'callaghan, J.: Alone & Unalone

Album cover art for upc 608410873780
Label: Ravello
Catalog: RR8020
Format: COMPACT DISC

Paramirabo Ensemble

New from Ravello Records comes composer James O’Callaghan’s ALONE AND UNALONE, a scintillating dance between reality and abstraction that is sure to spark the listener’s imagination and unearth their most primal misgivings. Montréal-based O’Callaghan has been laurelled with innumerable awards and prizes for his work–and rightfully so. Marrying traditional instruments, ambient sounds, and the incomparable power of the human voice, ALONE AND UNALONE dares the listener to grapple with solitude. The album opens with subject / object, where an eruption of piercing woodwinds, rhythmic punctuations, and metallic screeches are overcome at intervals by immersive silence. The piece is entropy in stereo, a kaleidoscope of dissonance sputtering and disintegrating from dystopian havoc into unearthly calm. On notes to selves follows, with an industrial hum serving as backdrop for hydraulic flourishes and silvery shrieks. Then, a flutter of deep flute tones introduces a contrasting texture. Soon, human voices cryptically repeat “notes to themselves” before receding into darkness. AMONG AM A, with its disconcerting knocks, snapping wires, and rushing winds, introduces new questions. Suddenly, an unmistakable human cough elicits our primeval empathy. Far off voices in another room converse–maybe even argue–but are too remote for straining ears. Finally, alone and unalone portrays the solipsism of a broken psyche left to its own devices. Whispers trigger in the listener a tingling autonomous sensory meridian response. With intense clarity the movement of lips and tongues refract against the listener’s eardrums. Water rushes, submerging the scene, and violin strains introduce a glimmer of tonality before the album recedes back to silence. ALONE AND UNALONE deconstructs the traditional relationships between composition and performance; recognition and confusion; order and chaos. The result is a moving work that touches listeners at the core of their humanity. The courage to enter into and embrace solitude is richly rewarded in James O’Callaghan’s ALONE AND UNALONE.

Price: $17.99