Syrinx Effect – A Sky You Could Strike A Match On (2018)

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Every time I’ve gotten into the topic of Syrinx Effect, I’ve made some hullabaloo about how these women are good out of making unique art out of just Naomi Siegel’s trombone, Kate Olson’s soprano sax/clarinet and their laptops and effects pedals, so pardon me if I repeat that big takeaway from this duo once again. Because six years after their debut effort This Is What Your Brain Sounds Like, that ability is still a big draw and why you should pay attention to them.

That said, A Sky You Could Strike A Match On — their first release in four years — represents a pivot in their trajectory. OK OK, not so much a pivot but more of a quick nod toward accessibility. It’s more accessible, certainly, but no less creative. The songs on here like before really defy neat categorization, and that’s a direct product of the approach Siegel and Olson take in making this music. It’s defined instead by the moods these pieces evoke: ethereal, joyful, solemn, fanciful, reflective…often mixing in these emotions within single performances. Effects are never felt to be an ends unto themselves, they are part of the toolkit used to rouse these emotions.

They waste no time with clever layering on “Cameronathon” but just as slyly pull back on it. A solemn intro ushers in a cascade of trombones for “Redwood Cry” that recedes into ambience and re-emerges again in a way more majestic fashion. “Gretta Returns To Dream” is a somber turn, another occasion where trombone and sax are selectively coated on to build up the song’s thickness.

Other skills are fully utilized, too. The two can fully compose pieces and improvise with chops. They exploit each of these abilities by leaving room for both in their songs. So for “Bottomfeeders” there’s a harmony of horns making the melody with only a repeating trombone figure to back them. Here, they employ the most organic of effects, handclaps, when the duo split off and do their own thing extemporaneous and simultaneously while looped figures from both are discreetly folded in and then dropped off. Telling two side of the same story continues on “Crabwalk” but the tête-à-tête soon gives way to a rich panoply of looped sax and trombone.

Syrinx Effect also made music you can dance to; Jacques Willis’s beat programming puts a groove under “Super Soaker” as Olson dances around Siegel’s loops. “Mobligations” kicks into gear two minutes in with another prefab groove, this time a slow burning one built around a three chord vamp milked for all its worth. The very presence of hand played drums (from Eric Eagle) by itself makes “The Bankrobber Song” stand out within this collection, but it’s also the odd juxtaposition of vaudeville and chamber music as well.

“Song for Dead Sparrows” veers toward experimental side, marked by free form playing and a few odd electronic noises, and “The Hui” concludes the album on a lissome frame of mind.

It’s always a good indication that the music is working the way the artists intend for it to work when you struggle to pigeonhole it but can easily get a firm grasp of its emotional impact. A Sky You Could Strike A Match On does just that. Maybe that’s the true appeal of Syrinx Effect.

But man, they can still work those effects pedals.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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