Dave Holland: Life Cycle (ECM 1238)

 

Dave Holland
Life Cycle

Dave Holland cello
Recorded November 1982 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Holland picks up here where he left off on Emerald Tears with this overlooked solo album, which finds him swapping his usual upright for cello. While Holland is obviously no stranger to the instrument, it is such a rare pleasure to hear the cello alone at his bow. The bread and butter of this set is the eponymous five-parter, which indeed seems to trace a life from beginning to end. It is not only a cycle, but also its affirmation, such that the birth cries of “Inception” rend us with the thrill of being in a way that suggests awareness of a former existence. The sensorial “Discovery” walks us through a feeling-out of the world, adding sound to the richness of its growth. This pathos continues on through the inward-gazing “Longing” and “Search,” both of which hone their emotive capstones in the psychological and biological. The latter’s title might as well be a slogan for the album as a whole, where the overarching realities of its path are marked by time and space, on through a funkier “Resolution.”

The album’s remainder offers up a potpourri of technical flourishes and fragrant artistry. The linear meditations in “Sonnet” slumber alongside the finely chiseled “Runes,” which is not only a standout, but also brings Holland’s bass-minded lyricism to the fore most evocatively. A shake of the kaleidoscope gives us the erratic turns of “Grapevine,” and intimations of Hindemith in “Chanson Pour La Nuit.” In this last, we find the death that is silence, awaiting rebirth at the next press of PLAY.

Holland has a clean, if slightly rough-around-edges, sound on the cello, and brings his pizzicatist’s sense to this date’s mostly arco playing. Each gesture becomes its own life, released the moment his fingertips leave the strings. In this way, the album speaks not only to the evolution of an artist, but also to the art of evolution.

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