November 23, 2022
Bricolage III - Biliana Voutchkova & Tomeka Reid
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPRDL008
Location: New York
Release Date: November 4, 2022
Media: digital download
To our knowledge, this is the first recording featuring a collaboration between Bulgarian violinist Biliana Voutchkova & American cellist Tomeka Reid. The title "Bricolage" means "a creation from a diverse range of available things". We suppose then that the music is to be regarded as an example of bricolage and that the available elements were a violin, a voice and a cello. Certainly we can imagine music featuring violin, cello and voice, which we would not describe as bricolage but rather as a song with a vocalist backed by strings. Here, we have something entirely different.
The biography on her website states, "Biliana is a risk taker approaching contemporary classical repertoire with the same inspiration and freedom characteristic of her forceful improvisations." We already regarded Ms. Reid as a risk-taker based on her life story: growing up outside Washington DC, taking student loans to attend music school, then throwing caution to the wind to pursue a musician's life practicing music of the cultural margins, where financial security is elusive at best.* There is nothing conservative about the music that Ms. Voutchkova and Ms. Reid endeavor to make together—every minute contains an element of risk and reflects life without a safety net.
Bricolage III is the fifth album of duos featuring Biliana Voutchkova with various partners, including Michael Zerang on drums, Leila Bordreuil on cello, Joanna Mattrey on viola and Susana Santos Silva on trumpet. Each release has in common the presence and sensibility of Ms. Voutchkova, while presenting a unique musical collaboration. The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House have been meaning for some time to write a review of one or the other of these duos and, lo and behold, it only took five releases for the review to finally materialize. In Bricolage III, as in the earlier duets, Ms. Voutchkova and her collaborator explore a sonic territory of their own creation, using their instruments as a kind of compass that points anywhere but true north. The duo navigates a rough landscape; there is no apparent effort to offer a safe refuge to timid ears. At the same time, the duo offers a pleasant unpredictability to adventuresome ears. Each listener maintains some control over the destination to which this music delivers them, based upon the baggage that they bring along with them for the trip.
Ms. Reid, too, has had an exciting 2022. Also on Relative Pitch, she released a third recording in the Geometry series, a quartet with Kyoko Kitamura (voice), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet) and Joe Morris (guitar). She also appeared in a trio with Dave Rempis (saxophone) and Joshua Abrams (bass), Allium, released on Rempis' Aerophonic Records. The delayed vinyl of ...and then there's this shipped in spring of 2022, which paired Ms. Reid with Nicole Mitchell (flute) and Mike Reed (drums), interpreting and expanding the repertoire of the AACM. It is this sort of breadth of creative activity that has earned Ms. Reid recognition as a MacArthur Fellow for the class of 2022. Her playing on Bricolage III is at least as "far out" as any of these other records.
This recording offers the opportunity to hear a violin and cello duet, performed by two women, each in conscious control of their ground-breaking music. If Bricolage III serves as a belated introduction to the duos of Biliana Voutchkova, it will likely draw listeners to investigate the other equally provocative duets in this series.
For those listeners who appreciate a visual element to their music, we note in closing that there is also an abstract video to Bricolage III.
* For more on Tomeka Reid's background, read the amazing interview with William Parker in Conversations III, RogueArt, Paris, 2019, pp. 363-376.