Album of the Day: Julia Kent, “Temporal”

In addition to her solo albums and numerous collaborations, renowned cellist and composer Julia Kent has composed a number of pieces for dance. It is in this experience of designing music specifically for movement that she takes inspiration for her latest album, Temporal. Kent was less inspired by the graceful movements of dance than the simultaneous vulnerability and strength of dancers’ bodies.

Kent’s previous solo record, Asperities, was conceived around the idea of polar opposites, and the songs were full of the drama associated with such harsh collisions. Both Asperities and Temporal feature electronic instrumentation mixed with Kent’s cello, but that’s the largest similarity; where Asperities employs more brash and dissonant sounds, Temporal thrives on understatement and counterpoint.

Temporal opens boldly with the 12-minute “Last Hour Story.” The gambit pays off; an electronic pulse lends the song tension, and that drama serves to bridge the intensity of Asperities with the more minimalist new songs. The cello functions as both melody and harmony, the two often converging. The tension between these two lines builds and releases, becoming all the more powerful for its subtle evolution. Her music sometimes seems repetitive, in a hypnotic way, but close listening reveals steady movement.

Kent’s use of electronic instruments feels lighter than in the past. In “Floating City,” the synthesizers and cello each occupy their own sonic space, even when layered atop one another. On the closing track “Crepuscolo,” a quiet piano melody is buried in layers of cello and gentle distortion, fueling an undercurrent of contemplative unease.

There’s a subtlety and sparseness to the way Kent marries synthesizers and strings on this record. With Temporal, Kent proves she can elegantly render the quieter, intimate moments just as well as the big, powerful ones.

Erin Lyndal Martin

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