Nikos Veliotis / Anastasis Grivas: Vertical
Low Impedance

Forty-five seconds pass before the first sound appears on Vertical, an electroacoustic collaboration between cellist Nikos Veliotis and guitarist Anastasis Grivas. That's merely one of the unusual things that happens during the four untitled drones that constitute the hour-long recording. In the opening piece, low-level cello tones stretch across an almost imperceptibly swirling landscape for twelve minutes before expiring. Track two begins just as disarmingly with fifty-one seconds of silence until it too springs to life with Veliotis's cello and Grivas's custom-made guitar producing an interminable stream of sustained tones that would do La Monte Young proud. By obsessively clinging to the same pitch throughout, the duo builds tension until it becomes almost unbearable. In the nineteen-minute third piece (seventeen actually, as the first two minutes are silent), the cello claws its way through a blurry field of industrial scrapes and scratches. The latter abruptly drops out after fifteen minutes, leaving the cello to saw by its lonesome for the remaining four minutes. Shifting gears slightly, the fourteen-minute closer (its first five silent) is dominated by high-pitched, quietly piercing harmonics that lend the piece an eerie, almost nightmarish quality.

If one were to listen to Vertical distractedly with the volume low, not much might appear to be happening; listened to attentively with headphones, one hears considerably more activity and an engrossing listen is the outcome. Having said that, it's also an extreme recording in its unwavering commitment to a uniform tonal field that's so restricted and time-suspended it verges on frozen, and some listeners may deem such a recording too “hard-core” for their liking.

December 2008