When was the last time you felt a sense of real wonderment while listening to a piece of music? When was the last time a record grabbed you by the lapels and held you captive to it? For me it was when I put on Cello Riot, a six-song EP by Australian cellist Clare Brassil who also performs under the moniker of Cello Riot.
At the ripe young age of thirteen Brassil fell in love with the cello and more or less dedicated her life to it. She attended the University of Melbourne graduating with honors and earning a degree in music performance. She then began to further perfect her craft in Croatia, studying with some of the finest cellists in the world such as Gaorg Pedersen, Nathan Waks, Madame Tortelier, David Strange, Michael Goldschlagger and Rod McGrath. Brassil has played in the Sydney, Melbourne, Western Australian and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, and for the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra.
But over the years she has diversified her portfolio playing with the likes of Kanye West, Barbra Streisand and Olivia Newton-John as well as a slew of other mainstream rock and pop acts and has also contributed to film scores and has recorded with numerous bands.
Cello Riot is her own project though, which she recorded both alone, and alongside Julia Kent in New York, and Kronos Quartet cellist, Joan Jeanreanaud. Right off it reminded me of one of my favorite neo-classical outfits, Rachel’s. For Brassil doesn’t simply play the cello here, rather she manipulates it into producing soundscapes which are both fascinating and phantasmagoric.
The opener “Mornings” is beautiful and mist-laden. It’s like the soundtrack to a sunrise or to a flower slowly blooming. The creeks and cricks and static pops of sound which pervade all these tracks giving them a spooky and symphonic depth like on the haunting “Orbit” or the bass-y forcefulness that exudes from “Dying.” Brassil is able to make her music near the tangible as she does on the doldrums-laden haunting feel of the records closer “Alison’s Song.”
Ernest Hemingway once said that it is good to live in Paris while one is young for it stays with you the rest of your life. A “moveable feast” he called it. I get that same feeling with Cello Riot in that I feel lucky enough to have heard this great record and each time I listen to it I feel renewed in a way. It is both therapeutic and awe-inspiring, and that is exactly what art should be.
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