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Jason Kao Hwang: Human Rites Trio (True Sound)

A review of the violinist/violist's album with Andrew Drury and Ken Filiano

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Jason Kao Hwang: Human Rites Trio
The cover of Human Rites Trio by Jason Kao Hwang

I sometimes keep listening to this record after it finishes. No, I’m not on those drugs you’re thinking of. But from my living room I can’t quite tell when the stereo (in my bedroom) cuts off, and a good deal here sounds like sounds from outside my window: sighs, scrapes, slams, cracklings; the building, stretched in day heat, settling for the night. It matches what these three men—violinist/violist Hwang, bassist Ken Filiano, and drummer Andrew Drury—accomplish in the soft passages, blending their artisanal musicality with quotidian atmosphere. The sounds of time passing.

What they actually play conveys great verve and great zeal for life. Hwang and Filiano can pluck and counterpluck, but then they break out bows and the concept goes tilt-a-whirl dizzy. I thought, at first, of Brian Eno’s The Drop—the sound of an artificial intelligence assembling itself and then running its own first diagnostic—and that seemed to fit the staccato passages here, which Drury spurs on with a supple snap-crackle. But dry, strategically assembled bits gave way to wild flights of mad-bird fancy. Crucial areas (I’ll leave you to find them) reveal that they’re playing nothing less than the blues, a rubbery swagger at which each of the three men throws himself, to push the other two up that hill.

I embrace the zeal. But I always chuckle when they sink down quiet. Incorporating the pulses of life, but larger than any pulse blips. A straight line. A continuum.

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