Violinist/viola player Eyvind Kang was born in Corvallis, Oregon, and spent most of his youth travelling around Canada before settling in Seattle. Over his reasonably brief recording career he has collaborated with a number of disparate artists including Sun City Girls, Bill Frisell, Secret Chiefs, Animal Collective, Mr Bungle, Laura Viers, Sunn O))) and Laurie Anderson.
Allegedly, his two chief musical mentors were Michael White who has performed with the Sun Ra Arkestra and Pharoah Saunders and Indian Maestro Dr N Rajam. Both these influences may be heard on his latest album release for Ipecac Records “The Narrow Garden”. Taken as a whole, the album could be mistaken for a film soundtrack, as the opening piece “Forest Sama’i” has a particularly Eastern ambience made possible, in part, through intelligent use of space and instrumentation. There is an inherent joy to this opening piece which more or less gives the album a sacred essence. “Usnea” on the other hand utilises dissonance and disharmony, and somehow finds itself brought through these elements with the sound of ethereal woodwind.
The title track itself “The Narrow Garden” is built upon an ascending maelstrom of instrumentation and discord, which never feels out of place amongst the overall fragility. There are a number of song based pieces on “The Narrow Garden”, “Pure Nothing”, “Mineralia” which suggest to the listener a narrative with the intention of telling a tale, possibly of love lost or found, through the course of the album. Despite the number of musicians on a variety of instruments present on the album, there is a palpable sense of intimate space. There is never a sense at any time that the pieces that make up “The Narrow Garden” are busy or overloaded.
The closing piece “Invisus Natalls”, indeed, seems to fuse all the preceding elements together into a cohesive conclusion. Beginning with a gentle motif that builds gradually into a crescendo of disturbing yet wholly appropriate chaos, the album ends dramatically and unforgiving.
Listening to “The Narrow Garden” in its entirety, one gets the overwhelming sense of organic growth and responsiveness to the natural world. There are moments of sheer exquisiteness, and these are tempered with moments of violence.
As Eyvind Kang himself has explained:
“I composed most of the songs at a pond on Vashon Island…I also went down to Yelp and Olympia and music just came into my head. There were birds, plants and flowers. It’s a concept of love, of poetry like a troubadour or ashugh, courtly love that goes in two directions – one the more effable kind of delightful which is the idea of “Pure Nothing” and the other direction is the implication of a kind of violence.”