Imagine! Play! Learn! – by Evie WardGuest Editor
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Evie Ward reviews What We Said When We Met by Rachel Musson & Corey Mwamba, released under Takuroku — Cafe Oto’s digital label supporting artists in lockdown.
In calling their new release ‘What We Said When We Met’, Rachel Musson and Corey Mwamba’s saxophone and vibraphone duet immediately makes me think about communicating through music. Possibilities of meeting and speaking to one another or engaging in music in person have been restricted in this precarious time, and we’ve attempted alternative ways to continue a version of this. One way (if you have internet access) is remotely, via online platforms. For ‘What We Said…’, Musson and Mwamba met online over a Zoom call to conduct a wordless conversation of snaking rhythms and cadences between saxophone and vibraphone.
Before Mwamba retired from performing publicly last year, him and Musson had a duo project for six years; this digital output is suggestive of that intimacy in their creative relationship. For ‘What We Said When We Met’, the pair carved out a moment to play and say something to one another over four tracks, in the loosely woven riffs and flicks between woodwind, and resonating percussion.
The duo shared space and sound via the screen and speakers on Zoom, but recorded themselves separately to pull the separate threads of sound back together for mixing. This entanglement of closeness and distance, being together and apart in their process, corresponds with the record’s sounds that maintains a spaciousness of varying mellifluous phrases.
There is clarity between the instruments; it feels as though the musicians are exploring sonic distance through the lightness of sounds they produce. The record opens with Mwamba’s tickling vibraphone cascading fluently, as Musson’s saxophone flows in soft melodies and the two instruments overlap.
Ghostly coiled tones on the vibraphone begin the second track, which then unravel with the saxophone into the distance. The saxophone pulses and trembles, and the vibraphones consistently climb into a lullaby-like melancholic section. Drifting into percussive sounds that grow to a climax of tempo and texture, there is a brief halt before the music comes back in with a bouncier lightness.
Musson and Mwmba’s soundings intricately connect on the record, chiming with one another as the notes they blow or beat fall in unison, enriching the other’s edges. The layering and skimming of saxophone and vibraphone create a playful shifting landscape of dialogue between the instruments.
The four tracks consist of frequent converging and dissolving journeys up and down the instruments. These build up in speed, sometimes fiercely, most often gently joyful, then drawing out, coming to a halt before beginning to trickle and start running again.
Musson and Mwamba’s ‘What We Said When We Met’ evokes how music is a meeting place, offering community even during experiences of lockdown when music venues are closed. It is not just the players who met online to play together, it is also the music’s ongoing meeting – in the sounds played and recorded that will be shared with the record’s listeners.
All tracks by Rachel Musson & Corey Mwamba, artwork design by Oli Barrett.
Evie Ward (b. London, 1993) is a poet and writer based in London. Her poetry has been published in Art Licks, SALT, and Cesura//Acceso. She often works collaboratively at the intersection of writing with music and art, having recently exhibited a site-specific poem in a group exhibition at Kupfer, and written a poem for a collaborative digital release on Cafe OTO’s lockdown music label, Takuroku.