The US musician and filmmaker writes about the delicate balance between improvisation and composition in big dog little dog’s Panorama
The premise of One Track Mind is pretty simple: I ask artists to pick one track that means a lot to them – either something they’ve discovered recently, something that’s been with them for years, or one that reminds them of a specific time in their life or career – and tell me what makes it so special to them. I get to talk to the artists I love, and they get to talk about the artists they love. Love all round!
Today we welcome US musician and filmmaker Elori Saxl to the blog, whose album The Blue of the Distance has just been released. Combining digitally-processed recordings of wind and water with analog synthesizers and chamber orchestra, The Blue of Distance is an enchanting blend of ambient and neo-classical pieces, with the album taking its title from a phrase coined by Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost, referring to the phenomenon of faraway mountains appearing blue due to light particles getting lost over distance.
For her One Track Mind feature, Elori has written about big dog little dog’s Panorama with an eloquence and level of detail that makes me want to massively up my game. Over to her…
Elori Saxl on big dog little dog – Panorama
“One piece that I’ve been listening to a lot lately is Panorama by big dog little dog, a supergroup comprised of composer/bassist Eleanore Oppenheim and composer/violinist Jessie Montgomery. Both Eleanore and Jessie are wildly talented and make beautiful music individually, but what they make together feels truly special. This recording, like all of their music, has a palpable physicality to it rooted in the resonance of open strings, the detail of shifting bow techniques, and the sound of the room itself. It feels very much like the result of live dialogue between two people, and it is a beautiful reminder of the power of human connection and the importance of physical presence.
“Panorama begins with simple pulsing chords built from slow bass and violin lines that move in opposite directions. The chords evolve as Jessie and Eleanore’s parts break apart, meander, and finally come back together. It feels as if they are each on their own melodic journey but are forming incidental chords as their parts align in continuously shifting patterns. The tempo is slow enough that I often start to feel it doubled, bringing to mind 90s House grooves. At moments, Panorama reminds me of being on a mountain and taking in an expansive view while the wind whistles around me. At other times, it feels as if I’m sitting just outside the door of a club at the end of a late night of dancing while I watch the sun start to rise.
“As the bass part shifts to harmonics towards the end, it feels like the DJ cutting the low end out of the last song and gently guiding everyone to the end of their night. The final chord narrows and narrows, first moving to be just on violin, and eventually to be just one note. It’s as if the mountain we’ve just summited now grows increasingly smaller out the back window as we drive away.
“Panorama feels like it exists in a beautifully ambiguous zone between improvisation and composition. It’s clear that there’s a route, but it’s unclear if the detours along the way shift with each journey. Whatever the case, I am very happy to be along for the ride and to float on big dog little dog’s pulsing waves, wherever they take me.”
Elori Saxl – The Blue of the Distance is out now