French cellist and sound artist Leila Bordreuil diffuses and distorts bowed lines in her Chicago debut | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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French cellist and sound artist Leila Bordreuil diffuses and distorts bowed lines in her Chicago debut


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French cellist Leila Bordreuil is a rising figure on New York’s improvising scene. She casually accesses concepts from jazz, contemporary classical, noise, and experimental traditions, but adheres to none of them. If anything distinguishes the work by her that I’ve encountered so far, it’s her fierce interest in pure color and texture. Sometimes she manipulates her strident arco sounds with amplification; in her Chicago debut she’ll employ a multichannel setup using different kinds of microphones and amplifiers to create a series of altered manifestations of her playing, which is knuckle-bloodying in its tactile grit. But even when she performs acoustically, she generates bewildering skeins of sound that defy the ears. On The Caustic Ballads (Relative Pitch), a deliriously abrasive set of duos with saxophonist Michael Foster, Bordreuil creates astringent upper-register sobs and shrieks that often sound more like an overblown saxophone than a string instrument. What stands out even more is how she and her partner generate empathic lines that seethe like slow-motion live wire, writhing and grinding in exquisite agony. Bordreuil’s collaborations with bass clarinetist Lea Bertucci are more hypnotic. On their 2015 album L’Onde Souterraine (Telegraph Harp), extended single-note lines and repeating arpeggios are played quietly. As amplification is triggered by the musicians, the acoustic sounds blossom into overtone-rich billows, which sets the listener awash in thrilling, meticulously considered psychoacoustic effects. Bordreuil’s latest tape with bassist Zach Rowden, Hollow (No Rent), is entirely acoustic, with music that moves from whispery harmonics to viscous, deeply fricative slabs. I heard her improvise as part of a string trio in January in New York, but I expect her manipulation of varied sound channeling devices will be hard to top.   v

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