The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
There Is No Sound in Space
Thursday, 02 July 2009
James Sudakow (electric violin) Eric Zimmermann (guitar/programming)
Don’t go near this CD if you have a horror of progressive rock, as this is very much violinist James Sudakow’s starting point in creating a disc where his electric violin essentially functions as a wandering electric guitar. Echoes of Jimi Hendrix abound in his swaggering style, with a touch of the improvisatory noodling of King Crimson thrown in for good measure. But listen hard and there is a certain quirky charm to the sound worlds he creates, along with guitarist and programmer Eric Zimmermann.
I was curiously drawn to the incongruously named Moment of Silence, with its layers of 80s drum sounds and handclaps supporting Sudakow’s rock-guitar-like posturing, and also to Waiting for a Miracle, with its sudden flights into Middle-Eastern ornamentation before drifting back to pure Guns ’n’ Roses territory with meandering, heroic guitar sounds. Strange Orange Glow has more weighty rock gestures, with attendant note-bending and fast fingerwork, interspersed with brief interludes of Glass-like descending violin arpeggios.
There are shades of Sergeant Pepper, and Within You Without You, in the opening sitar-like distortions of The Greatest Life I’ve Even Known (sic), then subtle shifts in tone colour transform these opening phrases so that they sound more violin-like. The circling drift of There Is No Sound in Space was a low point, showing up the imperfections in Sudakow’s technique, with dodgy intonation and creaky shifts, but heard live it would possibly make a more powerful impact.
As a concept, then, the idea of violin as rock guitar might sound unpromising, but with Sudakow’s eclectic range of influences the disc has started growing on me. Slowly.
From the July 2009 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.