The eclectic career of double bassist Eleonore Oppenheim has included work with the Philip Glass Ensemble, Norah Jones, and Meredith Monk. While performing with groups including The Hands Free, Bonjour, and Victoire, she recently put out a solo album, Home, with works by a number of composers she has collaborated with over the past decade. These recordings focus on the juxtaposition of the double bass with electronics. It’s a gratifyingly succinct album whose six pieces (plus a remix) express a fulsome variety of sounds and feelings.
“La Isla Mágica” by Angelica Negrón expands some basic minimalist phrases into iridescent complexity, as keening bowing and woody pizzicatos play against sequenced electronics. In “Crocodile” by Florent Ghys (of Bonjour), Oppenheim reads a French text over upper-register double-stops in a range more commonly associated with the cello, while the heaviness of the sawing makes it clear this is the larger instrument. Funky beats in the central section reestablish the instrument’s traditional undergirding role without reducing it to mere support.
Wil Smith’s “Heavy Beating” sounds like musique concrète, with arrhythmic percussion sounds and “unmusical” thumps and bass slides speckled with electronic fillips. It adds up to an evocative picture of dark animal doings before relapsing into a spacey, anxious hum.
“Home” by Jenny Olivia Johnson begins in a contemplative mode of minor chords and firm dissonances all from the bass, establishing a weird harmonic dialect of its own, which persists through an agitated development. A coda suggests feedback at a rock concert. Lorna Dune’s brief remix of the same piece adds a dance beat and synthesized sparkles for a pleasant, accessible finale that echoes Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”
Though they’re all by different composers, the pieces in combination provide a sweet balance of moody atmospherics and richly expressive statements, abstract and concrete – sometimes simultaneously. They form one 37-minute sweep of curious musicality that’s just enough to leave the receptive ear wanting more.