Laura Cetilia: Used, Broken & Unwanted

One tends to think of Laura Cetilia as the classically trained cello half of Mem1, with her partner Mark Cetilia responsible for the electronics side, but Laura's solo outing Used, Broken & Unwanted reveals that such a characterization is oversimplified. Yes, cello does play a significant part on the recording, but it would be more accurate to describe it as an electro-acoustic as opposed to cello-based set, especially when the recording's seven live-recorded pieces are fleshed out with autoharp, voice, and electronics sounds in addition to her signature instrument. When not involved in solo work or Mem1 productions, Laura, a graduate of the School of Music at Indiana University and Wichita State University, also partners with violist Robin Streb in Suna No Onna and is a member of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and New Bedford Symphony.

There are many striking things about the recording. One notices first of all that Laura's soundworld is relatively quiet, the aptly titled reverie "Endless Bliss" a clear case in point, with nary a Merzbow-like blast in sight—though "Plucked from Obscurity," it must be said, does screech and howl lustily for seven cataclysmic minutes. But generally speaking, her strategy is to seduce the listener with unusual arrays of sounds (bells and woozy tinklings colliding with rippling combustion during "Plucked from Obscurity," for example) and an always adventurous compositional sensibility. Another memorable detail is her soft wordless vocalizing, which surfaces throughout (it's, in fact, the first sound on the fifty-three-minute recording) and lends a humanizing quality to the material's at times abstract character.

In the immersive title track, Cetilia's real-time material develops unhurriedly as a dense, open-ended mass packed with string textures, hushed vocal musings, granular static, and controlled eruptions. The album also includes an insectoid, wavering drone ("Thrum / Pin") and another that presents a controlled swarm of high-pitched micro-sounds ("Blinding Light"). The album's key track is arguably "Tears of Things," an encompassing setting of cello-generated creaks and bowed tones that slowly swells in size and density over the course of fourteen hyper-tense minutes. Though Laura apparently got the album title from after a pawn shop sign she once saw, the recording is—or at least should be—anything but unwanted, even if some of its sounds might be called broken in a particular sense of the word.

Textura (2014)