Parallel Paths. CELLO + LAPTOP -Edu Comelles & Sara Galán-
(Envelope Collective 2012)

Review by Jay-Dea Lopez

Parallel Paths is a collaborative release featuring Sara Galán on cello alongside the field recordings of Edu Comelles. Throughout the release the two sensitively weave around one another, exploring the relationship that exists between acoustic production and technology, melody and ambient sound, and interior and exterior space. The cello’s deep register forms the centre of Parallel Paths yet it is the field recordings that serve to distinguish each track, alternating between sounds recorded within the performance space and sounds of the sea.

Parallel Paths begins with an improvised performance that features recordings of footsteps echoing within (what might be) the performance space. The choice of field recording highlights the artifice of the ambience created. As the tracks progress the sounds of wind and the ocean replace those from the stage, the boundary between the interior performance site and the exterior world of field recordings becomes blurred.

“Remaining parts of a shipwreck” is the first track to move Parallel Paths into a different geographic space. As Galán plays the cello Comelles contributes to the piece with hydrophonic recordings. The splash of water as it passes across the surface of the hydrophones blends beautifully with the cello, the combination of sounds sparking our imagination. We listen visually, envisioning the story of sailors, a storm and an ensuing shipwreck from an unknown past.

“Shoreline” moves us from the water to an isolated windswept beach. Following the narrative of the previous track we can imagine the aftermath of the shipwreck. The cello plays long sustained notes, the whistling of the wind propelling the piece forward. The tone is solemn yet the juxtaposition of the field recordings and cello is so perfectly managed that we drift with its movements as if in a dream.

The intensity that develops during the course of “Shoreline” is pleasantly broken by a ship’s bell in “Wanderlust”. The bell’s crisp tone resonates with the aid of studio delay effects; it is in this track that the juxtaposition of field recordings and cello find themselves at their most ethereal.

“La souriante Madame Beudet” is the final track on Parallel Paths. The languid strokes of the cello play above Comelle’s airy processed sounds in what might be Parallel Path’s most filmic track. Although the title refers to a French silent movie about a loveless marriage there is still a nautical sensibility to the mood of the piece, with Galán’s cello undulating in the form of slow oceanic waves.

“Parallel Paths” is a stunning work, extending the possibilities of field recording and classical performance beyond their usual limitations. “Parallel Paths” is available for download in digital form, however those who buy the physical release are granted a free 23-minute track recorded live in Valencia. As we listen to Galán and Comelles we can only admire the way in which they listen to one another, their sensitivity towards each other infusing their work. The sounds and narratives of “Parallel Paths” resonate long after it reaches its end. We are left with dreams of oceans, windswept beaches, and sailors long forgotten.

[Edu Comelles left, Sara Galán right]

Edu Comelles website
Envelope Collective website