Dusted Reviews

Eyvind Kang - The Narrow Garden

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Eyvind Kang

Album: The Narrow Garden

Label: Ipecac

Review date: May. 24, 2012

On 2010’s Athlantis, Eyvind Kang’s source material was a 16th-century philosophical text; now he ups the ante. The violinist’s latest album for Mike Patton’s Ipecac record label reaches back even further, setting new music to lyrical content from the High Middle Ages and ancient Rome. And these bits of textual time travel aren’t the album’s only trips: “Forest Sama’i” is an adaptation of a Turkish form used in Ottoman court music, and the medieval sound of “Mineralia” certainly isn’t of this time or place. But while The Narrow Garden’s influences are broad in scope, the album doesn’t feel expansive. The thousands of miles and hundreds of years are compressed into a rather snappy 37 minutes. Kang knows where he’s going, and he doesn’t dally on the way.

There’s a reason that Kang often finds himself working with pop musicians. For all of its obscure inspiration and unconventional instrumentation, The Narrow Garden is quite easy on the ears. The more challenging forms and techniques that Kang adopts from Middle Eastern and Asian traditions aren’t wholly sugar-coated, but, just like Mary Poppins, Kang knows that the sweet stuff can make almost anything easier to swallow. Lush strings ride sidecar with Jessika Kenney’s powerful voice on “Pure Nothing,” easing the listener through the transitions between the simple, repeated verses and the more exotic twists that follow. “Forest Sama’i” is a florid opener, its serpentine melodies executed in tandem by the flute and strings, The opulence of the arrangements can seem too much at times, but a darker side of The Narrow Garden awaits.

“Invisus Natalis” begins like the sort of listener-friendly world music that gets play on the small town concert circuit, smoothly executed, with flashes of Western flourish. Jessika Kenney’s impressive voice is at its most fluid, the rhythm some of the album’s most propulsive. That would make a nice enough finale, but the track doesn’t really get interesting until seven minutes in. It’s then that the strings start to climb in rising slabs of dissonance, and the carefully-tempered tone that the piece worked so long to establish goes up in flames. The increasingly sinister strings are augmented by the sound of a briskly burning fire, and then it all ends rather suddenly, without resolution or a return to the composition’s earlier theme. The disc’s title track goes one further, and doesn’t even bother with the pretty stuff, concentrating solely on the sort of strings that invade “Invisus Natalis,” creating a continually rising sense of tension that lasts almost six minutes and leaves a quiet storm in its wake.

It’s too bad that the whole album doesn’t contain more of the conflict with which it ends. The Narrow Garden’s comelier compositions are deftly composed, made of melodies that will haunt my mind for months. They seem a bit mawkish, however, in comparison to end of “Invisus Natalis,” “The Narrow Garden,” or the unsettling stew of “Unsea.” Kang has said that the album was inspired by the tradition of courtly love, and it shows. The Narrow Garden is, at times, polite to a fault, its sensual romance lacking visceral urgency.

By Adam Strohm

Other Reviews of Eyvind Kang

Virginal Co Ordinates


Visible Breath

Read More

View all articles by Adam Strohm

Find out more about Ipecac

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.