Erdem Helvacioglu & Sirin Pancaroglu:
Erdem Helvacioglu has not only established a solid reputation as an artist in his own right, but he's also establishing himself to an equal degree as a collaborator. In 2010, he and Per Boysen pooled their artistic energies for Sub City 2064, and earlier this year, Helvacioglu and tarhu player Ros Bandt released their collaborative effort Black Falcon. A mere half-year later, Helvacioglu is back, this time with Sirin Pancaroglu, one of Turkey's best-known harpists who, like Helvacioglu, would appear to have somewhat of an insatiable appetite for experimental electro-acoustic music. While Helvacioglu is well-known as a guitarist, his role on this project more concerns sound manipulation and soundsculpting, as he samples and applies live processing to Pancaroglu's Turkish harp playing (the concert harp, electric harp, and the çeng, a traditional Near-Eastern harp, are featured on the album). In order to capture an even greater range of sound, different microphones and microphone techniques were used, such as placing microphones at the top and inside the instrument.
The first part (eschewing conventional titles, the eight tracks are identified as separate parts) quickly establishes the duo's bold electro-acoustic sound-world, setting the stage for the equally wide-ranging approach applied to the seven subsequent parts. The typical sounds associated with harp playing are present, plucked melodies and strums in particular, but the two boldly explore the instrument's sonic range by applying every imaginable device to its strings, including knives, ropes, bows, and e-bows, their approach driven by the desire to reap the full emotional potential from the instrument using experimental techniques. A given piece includes both the kind of lyrical passages and delicate timbres one associates with the harp and a perpetually evolving mass of electronically enhanced textures and treatments. A percussive dimension is prominent, though that's to be expected when the harp is not just played conventionally but treated as as sound-generator. The seventh part immerses the listener within an insectoid micro-universe of scurrying scrapes and plucks, while, at fifteen minutes, the eighth is the longest part and perhaps most representative of the album's character. A sometimes ominous, even dystopic mood is created when unsettling noises of varying character—scrapes, sawings, splatterings, percussive strikes—suggest a ruined landscape of some post-apocalyptic kind, and, here and elsewhere, one is struck by how small a percentage of the material is taken up by recognizable harp sounds.
Composed by Helvacioglu and performed by Pancaroglu, Resonating Universes is not, to be sure, an easy listening soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon garden party but instead squarely in the tradition of no-holds-barred experimental music-making (as the violent salvos of percussive blasts and electronic noise in part four make clear). It's a project, in other words, where one will find precious few pretty harp melodies; what is abundant is an uncompromising approach dedicated to exploring the sonic possibilities of the harp to the maximum degree.