Duane Pitre – Feel Free (Important Records, 2012)

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It’s difficult to talk about a record that sounds as organic, as free-spirited, and as easygoing as Duane Pitre’s effortlessly gorgeous 2012 LP Feel Free. Wrought largely from stringed instruments, recorded tones have been rearranged by computer synthesis into a seamless 40 minute record that moves gracefully from one chaptered sequence into the next. Harp, hammered dulcimer, violin, cello and guitar all play a part in its construction, uncoiling in textural harmony together to ride a careful line between randomness and deliberate thought.

Its arc is a simple one: slow and somewhat unstructured at first, its various instruments begin to find their feet with one another, amalgamating into a more unified entity that overcomes any initial hesitation into a body that feels totally at ease. The world in which it constructs melts from one kaleidoscopic arpeggio to the next, densifying  to a point at its conclusion with expansive confidence and assuredness so broad that one forgets any early unsteadiness and questions why there was any doubt in the first place.

The result is glittery and crystalline beginnings, guitar and harp pickings spinning tentative fragments out into the mysterious dark, a genetic hesitancy. Cello and violin smears introduce themselves slowly, crooning strokes that begin to paint edges onto the musical form, bounding it and resolving its shape and course. Their force is like a steadying hand, elongate strokes of wisdom and maturity that guide the chaotic little shards and shepherd them into coherence. Idiosyncratic touches of chords begin to appear in Sections II and III as a result, subtle repetitions in the fractal geometry of personality, allusions to refinement and evolution.

They mill there for a time, cautious in their advance and careful not to go beyond their bounds, delicately swirling in reductive phases as they thoughtfully mature only to break out in the textural blossoming and re-emergent Section IV. This is the liveliest chapter of the record, a dizzying spiral of stringed effervescence just tumbling out with unrestrained enthusiasm, eager to move along. Each note remains carefully placed and yet proceeds with a casualness and effortlessness that feels so genuinely organic it’s difficult not to get swept up in its motions. Blossom lost to the wind; snowflakes tumbling to the ground; seedpods whirling in frenzied descent.

All this action reaches convergence, a place of unity and a sense of oneness. The final movement is a metamorphosis into foundational drone, all the individual pieces and fragments once disparate now merged into one. Strings heave and breathe together, long strokes blending into a haze of sonic energy that balloons in its newly discovered synchronicity. There’s a sense of realisation, of alignment here at the end, the music lost in woozy and impenetrable drones that now feel wonderfully free and unconfined, ascendant in their transformation.

This is a relaxed listen, one that asks very little of the listener as it progresses easily on its little journey of self-discovery as it takes you along for a ride. Begin to scratch the surface however, and you might find yourself more rewarded than you expected to be.

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