Malone then sewed these pieces into an extended piece of ribbon threaded together by a variety of deeply textured drones. She indulged in the whisper and roar of the legendary ARP 2500 modular synthesizer – and not just any ARP 2500, but the unit belonging to Eliane Radigue, the nonagenarian composer who recently made her own titanic organ debut. . She added the shimmering hum of the Bumblebee Box, a state-of-the-art French counterpart to the Indian hurdy-gurdy and Shruti box. And, finally, Malone used a host of other synthetic approaches, including a which invokes the sadness of a slowly plucked blues guitar, to shape the unexpected strata that give living torch such depth.
As impenetrable as Malone’s approach may seem, the results sound effortlessly, taking an unusual route to familiar terrain: in living torchfrom both movements, I hear a score to try to hold together despite the daily difficulties of life and an ultimate realization of one’s own mortality. The first side of living torch works like a quest for regular breathing, to find and maintain the center when it would be easier to turn. All of these sounds – wails of horns, murmurs of the Bumblebee Box, soaring electronics – move independently, so that one element seems to inhale just as another exhales. Total comfort and total anxiety seem a stone’s throw away. Specific intervals linger between Western expectations of a major and minor chord; listening is like teetering on a scale balanced by despair and joy.
This ladder leans unequivocally towards darkness during living torch, a 15-minute descent into the abyss. Malone uses the synthesized sound of a single guitar string to provide rhythm, but its watchdog tone – imagine an unamplified bass, plucked with endless resignation – evokes a countdown to death. The surrounding harmonies suddenly become brittle tones, once smooth, covered with a thousand folds; the electronic hum that once purred now howls, as if screaming at any notion of survival. The sense of breath, so central to the piece, slows to the point of vanishing. The final moments are like watching time-lapse images of a beautiful flower, all soft greens, pinks and grays, losing its petals and fading into nothing.
living torch is the first release on Recollection GRM or Portraits GRM since the death of the founder of the twin labels, Peter Rehberg, the musician and songwriter whose Editions Mego imprint helped shape the course of modern electronic music. In 2012, Rehberg launched Memory to delve into the GRM archives and discover its little-known gems. Almost a decade later, he began Portraits to give new generations of bandmates – Jim O’Rourke, Florian Hecker and Okkyung Lee among them – access to the studio’s enormous resources. After Rehberg died of a heart attack at his Berlin home in July 2021, his crucial job appeared to be in jeopardy. But major French label Shelter Press agreed to give both series a new home closer to GRM’s Paris headquarters, about 200 miles west of Rennes. living torch is a fitting and crucial next step, as Malone fulfills and expands the promise of his early self-taught works.