It's the greatest story Hollywood can muster: "differences find a way to make it work", such as , Fools Rush In (Matthew Perry actually has a hard time loving Salma Hayek?), Enemy Mine and the episode of (vintage) Battlestar Galactica where Starbuck and a Cylon, stranded on a planet together, get in adventures and eventually recognize the good in each other ("Cy" eventually dies in the lieutenant's arms). I guess a whole movie about two cultures / a romantic couple sans tension, celebrating dissimilarity and getting along really well doesn't make for an engaging two-hour ride.
But this theme does translate really well when applied to fifty minutes of improvised music.
Fauna is a wonderful mixture of two disparate instruments, self-compelled to find a bond. Simon Rose on baritone and alto sax meets Paul Stapleton and his Bonsai Sound Sculpture (BoSS), a contraption that melds a turntable with metallic surfaces (homemade mbiras, a three-stringed harp, etc.), manipulation and amplification. They have almost nothing in common, but the fervent, alien textures created from a reed and a box of tricks are ear-prickingly inviting. For the opener, "Borealis", the duo comes out swinging with Rose's staccato hiccups and Stapleton actively rattling his machine (think prepared piano sounds). They swap melodies, ranges, attitudes and occasionally bisect points of interdependence with Rose carrying the last few minutes in a rapid, vibrating, pulsing murmur. On "Felt", Stapleton demonstrates his ability to deconstruct the notion of turntablism which he takes from mere abstract scratching to mechanical purrs to mouse song to dog whistle to electrical misfires; Rose is patient, fading a warbling ostinato in and out of tempi and dynamic swells. The duo is deft at keeping a tense bubble of intrigue on "Deep" and "Zwischenfall", where space and pause are incorporated to enjoy the whisper and spittle, resonance of bells and strings and rumble of thumps. Stapleton and Rose blend these techniques, incongruous colors and shapes throughout the disc, eventually closing out the finale, "Vertreiben", with a bulbous, static drone cloud.
Stapleton and Rose successfully smooth out the seams and stiches of this Frankenstein with a sensitivity to their craft and each other while exploring an uncharted android aesthetic. One thinks about musical inventor Harry Partch who tried to find an almost more refined musical dialect, or replace Latin with Sanskrit as a baseline for his and his client's endeavors; however — and no insult to Partch — whereas he sought an extension, this duo looks for what's on the other side.
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