Anne Müller ~ Heliopause

This is Anne Müller‘s first solo album.  That can’t be true, can it?  We’ve grown so used to hearing the cellist and reading her name that we’ve neglected to note that none of the over sixty albums on which she’s played has been her own.  This fact informs the album’s name, as the Heliopause is the point at which one exits our solar system and leaves the protection of the sun’s light.

Müller needs no such protection.  Whether playing a pure solo line or looping her cello to create the illusion of an orchestra, the cellist makes an aural impact that is distinctly hers.  Looking back over her career, she makes up for her solo silence by presenting one of her earliest compositions (“Nummer Two”) along with a host of new works.  If “Nummer Two” makes vast use of repetitions, it can be forgiven; this was the second piece she ever wrote.  Listen instead for the counter-melodies, which offer tenderness and a hint of the sublime.

While “Nummer Two” is the album’s first single (and first or 61st impression, depending on how well one knows the artist), the first track takes a completely different trajectory.  “Being Anne” repurposes an old piano, as the artist plays the instrument’s broken strings and accompanies herself by tapping on the key mechanism.  The title implies that it’s also a metaphor for personal reinvention: the piano once belonged to Müller’s mother, and was used for childhood piano lessons.  Imagine young Anne, playing “Chopsticks” or “Three Blind Mice,” and the current piece seems something of a miracle; at the very least, an aural impossibility.  Eschewing accessibility, the track still offers definition, as displayed in the percussive metronome that morphs into a pair of clocks that tick at different speeds, mapping alternate futures.  I will play the piano; I will play the cello; I will play the piano like a cello.

In “Drifting Circles,” the shift from minor to major (including layered vocals) echoes the shift from childhood to adulthood, from collaborator to solo artist, from the solar system to the great beyond.  The clock returns for the final piece, a reminder of the passage of time.  At this point in her career, Müller is neither old nor young; she sees this moment as a juncture and declares that now is the time to “explore strange new worlds.”  We’re glad to see her in the pilot’s seat, blazing her own path in the cosmos. (Richard Allen)

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