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Sebastian Rochford & Pamelia Kurstin Ouch Evil Slow Hop Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Debut recordings of duo’s eerie alchemical alliance.

Spencer Grady 2011

All those clinging onto redundant stereotypes of the Theremin’s role as a mere novelty of 1950s sci-fi B-movies are going to have their outmoded prejudices grossly undermined by this blistering set of improvisations. Employing her signature "walking bass" technique, here Kurstin (once described by none other than Dr Robert Arthur Moog as "one of the most important innovators" of the instrument) effortlessly runs the gamut from profane to sacrosanct, defying expectations by shifting captivating shades faster than a chameleon trapped in a kaleidoscope. Of course, her partner for these duets, Sebastian Rochford, is not to be outdone; his tub-thumping turns on Ouch Evil Slow Hop are as voluminous as his hair, forming a series of kinetic displays offering a master class in both percussive pugilism and the art of soft hands.

The molten cyborgian flux of the inaugural track is typical in its flouting of prescribed limits, dispelling any notion that this dynamic hullaballoo is being constructed almost entirely from drums and Theremin. Instead we hear an unlikely fusion of Cannibal Ox, The Prodigy and Lightning Bolt, prior to a sublime denouement of humpback whale choral, calling out like that plaintive marine beacon from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, with Rochford rolling out tom bursts on a glistening metallic seam. The aquatics continue on the second part of the Evil triptych, juxtaposing a steaming cauldron of Clangers with a disconsolate narwhal cramping up acute with a chronic case of gut ache. Best of all though is Slow, which sounds like Scandinavian ambient jazz outfit Supersilent, with Kurstin deputising for Arve Henriksen’s trumpet, showing off her jazz chops as Rochford teases reverentially at the bows and bells of his cymbals.

Ouch Evil Slow Hop is a dynamic, questing collection that’s brimming with ideas deployed with lean concision and efficiency. Outlandish notions are picked up, explored and put down again, before ever exhausting their topographic properties. There’s even time for a triumphant finale, as Hop delivers a promise on a Pekinese opera, which then dissolves into a flurry of Kurstin’s Hendrix-like salvos; a tumult hinting at the inherent scope and long-term potential of this compelling alliance.

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