This month I’d planned to compile my annual list of my 40 favorite albums of the previous year. After I fell behind, I figured I could just do it a bit later than usual, but ever since the inauguration it’s been hard to think about ranking records. I do know, though, that the latest album by Laura Cannell, Simultaneous Flight Movement (Brawl), would’ve landed high on that list. The Brit plays fiddle and recorders, and her exquisite solo recordings connect British folk, contemporary music, drone, and medieval music in ways that I struggle to understand. She seems to erase time, folding centuries-old traditions into something modern and bracing.
You may have heard Cannell in a trio called Oscilanz with This Heat drummer Charles Hayward or in another project with Welsh harp improviser Rhodri Davies. But I love her solo playing more than anything else I’ve heard her do. The new record consists of 14 semi-improvised original pieces, all recorded in one take inside the Southwold Lighthouse in Suffolk. Most feature her playing fiddle, either conventionally or using a technique called overbowing—in which the wooden part of the bow passes under the instrument while the hair is stretched over the strings, allowing her to play several notes at once. The way she braids drones and striated melodies is so rich in overtones and viscous harmonies that I feel I could float away on the sounds, and the natural reverb of the lighthouse dramatically enhances those effects. I can’t help but hear affinities with Norway’s Hardanger fiddle tradition. I can’t say I’m much of a fan of Cannell’s other instrument, the recorder—I was scarred by lessons in elementary school, and its chipper tone usually sends me running for the hills—but she manages to overcome my antipathy. For today’s 12 O’Clock Track, I’m sticking with one of the fiddle pieces—below you can hear the album’s opening piece, “Winter Saltings.”
Michael Nicolas, Transitions (Sono Luminus)
Guillermo Klein, Guachos V (Sunnyside)
Elizabeth Joy Roe, John Fields: Complete Nocturnes (Decca)
Per Texas Johansson, De Långa Rulltrapporna I Flemingsberg (Moserobie)
David Grubbs, Primrose (Blue Chopsticks)