Belladonna (feat. The Mivos Quartet)

Belladonna (feat. The Mivos Quartet)

Listeners get a sense of Mary Halvorson’s writing for The Mivos Quartet on the latter three tracks of Amaryllis. But on Belladonna, the companion album from the same year, the pairing of the Mivos strings and Halvorson’s guitar becomes the sole focus. While the horns and rhythm section of Amaryllis make for a busier, more groove-oriented sound, the sparser texture of Belladonna renders it more guitar-centric. In a sense, The Mivos Quartet becomes a string quintet, though Halvorson’s instrument is plucked rather than bowed, and she makes liberal use of pitch-shifting and bending effects to tweak her otherwise clean and unadorned hollow-body sound. (Four minutes into “Flying Song” is a particularly stark example.) The writing is sonically rich, dense with counterpoint and astringent lyricism, with a porous boundary between composed and improvised elements. In the closing minutes of the title track, Halvorson takes an aggressive turn, multitracking distorted lines over a metal-like cello riff. For a moment, the aesthetics of shred crash the chamber-music party, right before the whole affair comes abruptly to an end.

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