Having squashed her setup onto the narrow stage of Oslo’s Kafe Hærverk at a solo set this past November, the Australian clarinetist Aviva Endean proceeded to dream big: blowing through a detached bass clarinet mouthpiece affixed to a ribbed plastic tube, she wagged her head in front of the mics like a perorating elephant. The sound, low and sonorous, joined previous layers of humming, singing, and electronics. Her results were distinctly nocturnal—not unsettling or illicit, but rather rife with surreptitious activity, the sort of mischievous experiments that can take place only after everyone else has gone to sleep.
This sense of covert playfulness permeates Endean’s new solo album Moths and Stars, out earlier this month on the reliably imaginative Australian label Room 40. Like Endean’s 2018 solo album cinder :: ember :: ashes (SOFA), Moths and Stars evokes aspects of Endean’s “spatially engaged” solo and collaborative projects that create unconventional environments for listening—in one such space, the audience would be well advised to watch out for ping pong balls. While cinder :: ember :: ashes features the clarinet in duets with other instruments, Moths and Stars is an exploration of solace, where, as Endean explains in her liner notes, microphones, field recordings, and extended techniques help probe the clarinet’s relationship to itself and its surroundings. Across the album, microphones double as Endean’s magnifying glass, expanding a typically intimate array of sounds.
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