Sonnet/Matsumoto Duo & Tongue Depressor
The New Haven, CT duo Tongue Depressor perform trance-inducing fiddle music that seethes with beating overtones and a high lonesome sound. The unlikely pairing of lap steel dobro and koto makes up the L.A.-based duo of Caspar Sonnet and Kozue Matsumoto. Together they scrape, bow, and pluck their way through an investigation of the versatile sound palette and extended possibilities of their instruments.
This concert took place on May 2, 2019 at the Center for New Music in San Francisco.
Caspar Sonnet (lap-steel dobro), Kozue Matsumoto (koto) is an acoustic experimental, improvisational duo based in Los Angeles, California. Both artists employ numerous extended techniques exploring an array of sounds and textures heralding modern and early eastern and western folk traditions. The collaborations are intensive, concentrated duets where both players utilize prepared techniques composed in set time blocks. Each player is then assigned a specific set of tools to manipulate various parts of the instrument and assigned set tunings, microtonal or otherwise. Their use of instrumental augmentation, movement and presence are captivating to witness. Raucous tones, ringing notes, and harsh drones produced acoustically are at times terrifying and overpowering.
“As an experimental composer/performer/multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and composer, I create sound structures using prepared acoustic lap-steel dobro, harmonica, voice and percussion, employing an array of various extended techniques and just intonation, allowing spontaneous, improvised compositions to develop within time as it does. These time frames are regulated by use of sand and glass timers (hourglass) of varying durations or ‘soft time’ which induces a sense of hyper-awareness within each player, thus time becomes a physical object in the room.”
— Caspar Sonnet
“This project has been an incredibly exciting and intensive experience for me. It is a deep process of re-thinking and challenging my long-term relationship with the koto. I try to communicate with my instrument in various unconventional and sometimes absurd ways, and then ask: ‘How do I feel about it? How is the koto responding to it? Is this experiment working? Are we still happy together?’ We discovered many things about each other, and the time we spend together became more powerful. Then Caspar. He is an artist with a full spirit, and creating music together with him is compelling. I really enjoy the constantly changing colors of sound and noise that Caspar creates.”
— Kozue Matsumoto
Tongue Depressor is the duo of Zach Rowden and Henry Birdsey – two quietly prolific artists working in New Haven, CT. As a duo these experimenters delve into long bouts of trance inducing microtonal drone, typically on fiddles, but not exclusively, as on this release. Broad Is The Road That Leads To Death sees Tongue Depressor experimenting with a wide range of instruments and musical know-how. Side A’s “Dronerdie” features electric bass and guitar rumbling and groaning through deep and troubled territories, while Side B’s title track has forays into upright bass, resonator and, an inevitable conclusion of dual fiddle drone transcendence. Vibrant, sustained tension delicately balances along discordant, iconoclastic visions of a vacant world.
“Throughout the tension of the dueling strings, there is a strange satisfaction in the duo’s ability to continuously dance around the fine line of discord and near-harmony.” – CT Scramble
“Tongue Depressor finds sonic beauty stretching thousands of years in both past and future directions. Bowed strings wreathing with a mighty organic sigh. Sustained drone so vibrant, the details coil around your thoughts. Slowly squeezing, forcing the cerebral to vacate for physical reflection.” – lost in a sea of sound
“Two fiddles clashing, drifting in and out of drones, blurring the line between dissonance and beauty[…] It’s a slow burn with a grand reward.” – Splice Today