By Izzy Yellen | Published July 2016
Unsettling yet alluring, cellist Matt Turner and percussionist Hal Rammel’s most recent collaboration does a lot with a little. Recorded live with two amps and a single stereo microphone—and completely unedited—Orchestra Of Storms is a testament to stretching the limits of instant composition and finding a variety of sounds in unlikely places. The two musicians—experimental and improvising giants of the Midwest—use their instruments to push each other’s creativity and create unique soundscapes, incorporating many sounds probably never heard by a majority of its listeners.
Turner and Rammel are both known for innovation. Turner lectures on improvisation at Lawrence University and is always looking for new ways to craft and pull sounds out of the cello. Rammel invents in other ways, most notably with his amplified palettes, which he plays on this record. Made of wooden palettes—the kind artists use when applying paint to their brushes—the instrument contains various-sized wooden dowels and nails that are amplified by a Piezo pickup.
In terms of sonic exploration, Rammel approaches his homemade instrument in a similar fashion as Turner. With a shared excitement to delve into the acoustic unknown, the duo balances individual performance with a shared group sound. They improvise a wide range of textures ranging from dreamy to chaotic, and beyond.
Orchestra Of Storms is not only a chillingly captivating album, but an educational one as well. It reveals the importance of spontaneous composition and underscores the significance of interpersonal dialogue in music. Most importantly, it teaches listeners to embrace abnormal sounds and untraditional instruments.
Turner shows the listener there is no single right way to play the cello, and Rammel shows that music can be created without something that is generally considered a musical instrument. Though the album can be difficult to listen to—even for the most open of ears—the sentiment and magnitude of Orchestra Of Storms will ring loud and clear, provoking thought and inspiration long after the last sound is heard.
Orchestra Of Storms: All Suddenly Out; Without Consolation; A Ghostly Bridge; You Begin To Dream; Melting And Reshape; A Pivot Of Air; Frameless Openings; The Horizon Is Hidden. (38:33)
Personnel: Matt Turner, cello; Hal Rammel, amplified palettes.