A Sorrow Unrequited is a short but gorgeous collaboration between Frizzell & Duque, comprised of five minimalist explorations of high-fidelity sound. Each piece begins with the statement of a simple melody, which repeats throughout as additional layers accumulate, slowly teasing out new melodies. Rather than linger in the imperfections of media, as so many artists who work with repetition tend to do, instead the duo pursue an attention to fidelity that forces them to get the fine details just right.
The duo are likely better known by their monikers zakè and City of Dawn, under which they released their previous collaboration, An Eternal Moment Hidden Away. That A Sorrow Unrequited bears their surnames perhaps suggests the more personal nature of this collaboration. Zach Frizzell has built up an impressive discography in a few short years, exploring orchestral music in various guises. He is also the man behind Past Inside the Present, a label which has distinguished itself for their expansive catalog of immersive music. City of Dawn is Damien Duque, a multi-instrumentalist who produces expressive ambient soundscapes. Their two styles blend very naturally, complementing each other.
Unrequited love is a common theme, sorrow less so. What does it mean instead when a feeling of sorrow is not returned? While this might suggest a dreary mood, to the contrary A Sorrow Unrequited is calmly uplifting. There are moments of melancholy, but more often the steady ebb and flow of sound cultivates a profound sense of meditative stasis. The titles all come from a poem written by Julia Frizzell, evoking passing time and lessons humbly learned. The principle melodies are slow, faintly familiar enough to suggest a sense of nostalgia, but difficult enough to grasp that their steady evolution substitutes for narrative structure.
The artists take pleasure in soothing textures, avoiding sudden shifts or abrasive sonorities. There is a refined elegance to these five tracks, making the 33:33 runtime feel much shorter. Yet A Sorrow Unrequited rewards repeat listens, feeling comfortably familiar while always revealing fresh perspectives. A gentle, consonant palette of strings is given depth by the low end frequencies of a synth. The occasional moments of dissonance bring a slight tension in bright contrast to the mellow synth melodies or plaintive piano marking time.
Frizzell & Duque transform unadorned inputs into beautiful complexity. One is reminded of Brian Eno’s Discreet Music (1975), less for the title piece as “Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachebel,” a re-orchestration playing with various permutations (pitch, tempo, note length) of small fragments of the score. Rather than developing shifting patterns, the minimalism heard on A Sorrow Unrequited explores the timbral effects of gradual shifts in density, waves of sound almost imperceptibly carrying the melody from one instrument to another. There is a graceful poetry to the cadence of each track, reminding us that silences are as important to communication as sound. (Joseph Sannicandro)