The debut album from Toechter (Daughters) combines the talents of Lisa Marie Vogel, Katrine Grarup Elbo and Marie-Claire Schlameus on viola, violin and violoncello. But while the album lands in the category of modern composition, it is not just a string album; nor is it fully composed, as these works began as improvisations. Rounding out their sound with a “percussion library” comprised of interactions with their instruments, the trio produces a sound that borders on the electronic. The sounds fit together like the Tetris-like letters on the cover, interlocking in a fashion that seems instinctive. Nor does the album end here; the video below contains a non-album track (“She”), while the trio’s Soundcloud page contains an even newer track (“Melt”), along with a generous sampling of the aforementioned improvisations.
Two early singles, “Wish” and “Bliss,” whet our appetite for the project. “Wish” is also the album’s opening piece, beginning in what sounds like a tuning session until the violoncello arrives to give it form. The video follows suit, as a dancer drifts in and out of definition. This brief coalescence, less than two minutes long, sets the stage for the rest of the album.
“Charms” introduces the trio’s love for percussive elements, the framework to which the tempos will latch. The ear is fooled, hearing drums. The strings produce a hybrid texture, modified with electronic fluctuation. There’s even a breakdown akin to a 12″ trance record. Toechter, what hath thou wrought? “Tectonics” introduces lyric-free voice, another instrument in the arsenal, while the title track alone includes words. An amusing aside in the liner notes states that what most listeners will experience as pop, the trio experiences as experimental, because to them, pop is experimental! Another distinctive feature of the record is the brevity of the pieces; the longest lasts five minutes, the shortest 28 seconds. These tiny works fly by like dreams: puffs of music whose melodies linger in the air, already dissipating as the next pieces begin. Second single “Bliss” splits the difference (and includes a charming video, seen below), but works even better in context as part of a free-flowing set. By “Verbal Errors,” all elements ~ strings, percussion, voice and glitch ~ are fully integrated, ending in a beautiful breath, a sigh of contentment.
The incorporation of electronics is not the band’s only expansion. “Fall” contains elements of dark ambient and drone, and contains a rattling, unsettling breakdown; “Rêvé” (“Dream”) hops along at nearly 180 bpm, the upper limit of techno. “Epilogue” falls back into the open arms of classicism. No single track encompasses all that Toechter is and might be; the trio is poised to head in many directions, and we suspect they will continue to innovate and impress. (Richard Allen)