By Josef Woodard | Published November 2018
Guitarist Mary Halvorson’s reign of versatility and convention-breaking instincts continues. In a deviation from her usual-unusual projects and postmodern guitar notions, Seed Triangular finds Halvorson unplugging and embarking on a series of empathetic duets with reed player Robbie Lee. The results are simultaneously iconoclastic and rooted in some fuzzy folklore.
Between the opening “The Booming” and the resolution of the closing title track, Seed Triangular traverses 15 cuts with titles borrowed from Henry David Thoreau’s journals. The Thoreau connection translates neatly into music that seems to breathe self-reliance, resistance to modernity (at least its tech tools) and a private sense of transcendentalism.
Lee plays baroque flutes, an 1829 eight-key flute, a chalumeau (Renaissance-era clarinet) soprillo saxophone, melodica and bells, while Halvorson works out on the 18-string Knutsen Harp Guitar, a 1930 Gibson and an 1888 SS Stewart six-string banjo. On “Rock Flowers,” as Lee channels micro-Albert Ayler energy on the soprillo, Halvorson summons angular lines on banjo, slipping into a teasing power-chord rock cadence as the dialogue heats up.
Halvorson sounds vaguely reminiscent of John Fahey’s meandering grace amid her brief solo spotlights on “The Stuttering Note Of Probably” and “Sing O-Gurgle-Ee This Morning,” as Lee’s overblown tones help create an impressionistic wash of sound.
Seed Triangular: The Booming; Seven Of Strong; Like A Ripple Made By The Wind; A Forest Viol; Potamogeton; Fireproof-Brick Dust; The Stuttering Note Of Probably; Pondeteria; Rock Flowers; Spring Up There; Sing O-Gurgle-Ee This Morning; Shoots Have Shot; The Tawny Orange; Early Willows; Seed Triangular. (51:22)
Personnel: Robbie Lee, Baroque flutes, chalumeau, soprillo saxophone, melodica, bells; Mary Halvorson, 1930 Gibson L-2 guitar, 18-string Knutsen harp guitar, 1888 SS Stewart six-string banjo.