Review: Tijana Stanković – Freezer (LOM, Feb 2)

Artistic comparisons, in my opinion, are not something that should be used carelessly. Too often we fail to examine a work holistically, and instead focus on particular aspects that may allow us to make easy connections to things we already know. This is a misstep that I think is rooted in a human desire for familiarity, a need to break new and unknown things down into fragments that we can connect to existing experiences. I say all this because I immediately compared the new release from Serbian improviser Tijana Stanković, Freezer, to Polly Bradfield’s infamous classic Solo Violin Improvisations based purely on the approach taken. Any improvised work that makes use of the creaks and squeals of a small-bodied string instrument is inevitably indebted to Bradfield’s landmark opus, whether intentionally or not, but as sympathetic listeners it is an egregious disservice to in any way disregard the infinite nuance and creativity that freely improvised music makes possible—especially in this case, for Freezer is in a league all its own. Stanković not only makes use of the standard palette of extended techniques, preparations, pizzicato, and unconventional bowing to produce these pieces; she adds further detail with vocal elements that draw influence from Balkan folk music, the agitated, trembling drones almost imitating the shivers that might creep into one’s voice if one were actually trapped in the meat freezer where she recorded the album. “To freeze is to preserve,” Stanković states, a fitting mantra for a permanent document of music that is inherently impermanent and instantaneous. Fans of Solo Violin Improvisations will no doubt greatly enjoy Freezer, but don’t go in expecting a simple modern reimagining; this new work is a singular exploration into both personal and universal ideas that defy verbal communication.