Ambient Music

Catherine Sikora – Winter Solos (2022; Bandcamp) – Avant Music News

Every day for the entire month of December, saxophonist Catherine Sikora recorded a solo piece. Most are short at around three minutes, with the notable exception of the very first which is over five times as long. She started releasing these almost in real time, building a double album’s worth of material day by day.

Sikora is well-known as a creative composer, improviser, and performer, with the ability to express a wide range of tones, colors, and emotions. Here, she employs non-repeating melodies and drones with a combination of softer and harsher blowing that encompasses traditional playing as well as extended techniques.

Case in point, her subtlety is apparent throughout, as she is muscular and assertive without overt aggression. She makes her statements eschewing pretension. On some of the shorter tracks, her playing floats gently and leaves plenty of open space between notes. But this never becomes pastoral or tuneful, as it retains a quiet edginess.

Indeed, she uses her instrument to cry out from time to time, perhaps expressing an underlying sadness or acknowledging a loss. She is not trying to hide or mask anything and instead is accepting of these feelings.

Catherine Sikora is an intelligent and insightful performer, and this is never more apparent when all other instrumentation is stripped away and the listener is forced to hear her in raw form. There is much more to absorb from and say about Winter Solos, but – in short – this album is a real treat.

Create some space for yourself, be present, and listen deeply.

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