Snowdrops ~ Missing Island

What is the Missing Island?  Snowdrops dances around the title, touching on multiple themes: the elements, the unconscious, the search for meaning and revelation.  In the end, the missing island is open to interpretation: the piece that could complete us, if only we could find it.

The album unites the talents of Christine Ott, Mathieu Gabry and violinist Anne-Irène Kempf.  Ott, famous for her work on Ondes Martenot, now plays hand-pumped organ as well.  The music is sublime, Gabry’s piano often laying the groundwork for expansion.  In the same way, the LP stretches for deeper meaning, reflecting what Rilke calls “the birth-hour of a new clarity.”  The players’ physical hands concentrate on their instruments, while their spiritual hands stretch to the physical cosmos and the metaphysical heavens.  “Firebirds” sounds otherworldly, the Ondes Martenot like a synthesizer, creating the tone of a scientific seance.  “Nostalgia de la luz,” inspired by Patricio Guzmán’s documentary of the same name, asks if it is improper to search the skies for intelligent life while little can be found here.  The missing island might not be another planet or species; it may be the empathy of the human race.  The poignancy of the players highlights this melancholic reality without casting blame.

The closing triptych zooms in and zooms out.  “Radioactive Breath” is different from all that has come before, as one might intuit from the title; the piece begins with percussion and drone, two elements missing from prior pieces.  The effect is akin to an aftermath.  “Comme un souffle qui vient…” (“Like a breath that comes…”) continues the theme.  The tracks operate as yin and yang, alternative paths leading to alternative outcomes.  While the former drops its percussion early, the latter introduces percussion mid-piece.  Each contains a static charge, but the drone of the latter is more organic than electronic.  With only one track left to pick up the pieces, Ott switches to piano while Gabry concentrates on synth, a sign of adaptability that signifies a willingness to change, even late in the game: a trait that might benefit us all, should we choose to imitate it.  If so, we might eventually find our missing island.  (Richard Allen)

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