There have been many pretty and sorrowful pieces written for cello in recent years, yet Alder & Ash seem discontent in this mild approach, opting instead to purge the demons with a more unsettling and destructive aural palette. Not to say it’s all doom and gloom, as the moments of tension do give way to some resolve and enlightenment, but the true genius of Alder & Ash’s music lies in the balance of these extremes.
'Clutched in the Maw of the World', the second full-length album from Alder & Ash, is as much maximal as it is minimal. It punctuates periods of barren calm with thunder and screams, before creeping back to the silence and the dusk. The album is comprised entirely of cello. 'Clutched...' combines traditional classical modalities with gnarled, heavily treated modern techniques to devastating affect. Glass, wood, rain, stone and air are all present in the music, from the crystalline notes of the "Merciless Dawn" to the unyielding crashes and lumbering slabs of distorted rhythm of "A Seat Amongst God and His Children."
Alder & Ash treads on the experimental fringes of modern classical, perhaps too abrasive to play nice with the coy melodrama of the scene. Yet, the music has enough grit to take hold of lovers of doom, noise, and the like, perhaps winning over new fans of cello music from even the most hardened black metal die-hards.
Alder and Ash are not without their contemporaries, at times bringing to mind the lonesome bowed soundscapes of Warren Ellis, the calculated and darkly toned compositions of Christoph Berg, the rustic grandeur of the Montreal based label Constellation, or even the recent High Plains album on Kranky. With Alder & Ash’s penchant for unconventional rhythmics and freeform, teeth-baring experimentation one could also draw comparisons to the work of Colin Stetson.
'Clutched in the Maw of the World' is an honest and stark solitary journey in a desolate and destitute earth. It’s an album unafraid of being vulnerable, desperate and insecure, and above all else, it is not afraid to suffer.