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Kali Malone, 'Living Torch II'

Kali Malone wrings every beautifully forlorn texture from just a few notes. She's known for pipe organ pieces that undertake a spectral physicality, engaging with the very breath of the instrument. But on Living Torch, commissioned by the electro-acoustic music studio GRM, the American-born, Stockholm-based composer trades pipes for synths, sine waves and the boîte à bourdon, which literally translates as "drone box."

The whole album deserves a single sitting on a nice pair of headphones, but it is in the second act where Malone gives Living Torch's slow-moving theme a pulse. Over a shifting bed of trombone and bass clarinet, played by Mats Äleklint and Isak Hedtjärn respectively, bass notes played via Karplus-Strong string synthesis "pluck" the melody — in its stuttered phrasing, you can almost hear the ghost of Jason Molina. But as the drone builds, so does the doom: Distortion and feedback not only overcome, but reshape mourning into triumph.

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Lars Gotrich
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