The Caustic Ballads (2016)

Relative Pitch Records (CD)

Released February 19, 2016.

Recorded by Atticus Pomerantz. Mixed and Mastered by Jim Clouse. Photography by Bayley Sweitzer. Executive production by Kevin Reilly & Mike Panico.

Personnel:

Track List:

  • Born of Its Own Asphyxiation
  • Pleasure and Cruelty
  • Intimate Shrinkage of My Body and the Castration of My Life
  • Caustic Ballads
  • Criminal Caresses I
  • Into the Peristyle of Love’s Temple
  • Wherever the Orgasm Discharges Its Internal Rottenness
  • Your Strokes, My Shivers
  • Criminal Caresses II
  • Gimp
  • Throb
  • SpitPig
  • The Whip and the Body

Review

The relationship between pleasure and pain—this is the focus The Caustic Ballads put out by the duo of saxophonist Michael Foster and cellist Leila Bordreuil. Both have emerged over the past few years on the New York scene and are regarded as courageous artists who defy expectation and break convention. Foster and Bordreuil are both influenced by noise and both perform widely in the improvised music scene, particularly in Brooklyn. This is their debut record. On the surface, this duo’s music is quite intimate, featuring many small sounds–breath that wafts out to the listener, short or even isolated sounds that wake the listener up to the quiet that is often quite pervasive, and relatively short or mellow drones that cut across the dark canvas of the music. At the same time, the music instills in that intimate environment a great deal of discord, abrasion, and movement that cuts against the grain.

The short pieces included on the record evolve quickly and decisively, often moving from preliminary stillness to ecstatic climax quickly. There is nevertheless an impressive amount of patience in the music that displays a deep understanding between the two performers. Having played for over eight years together since meeting at Bard College, Bordreuil and Foster have honed their craft through countless encounters and this has allowed them to explore ideas in their music often ignored. There is constant tension through the record, often exploring sexual themes such as desire and rejection, at times exploding into orgasmic climax, while at other times descending into melancholy. The titles of the pieces push the envelope, such as “Pleasure and Cruelty,” “Your Strokes, My Shivers,” “The Whip and the Body,” as well as the title track. Bordreuil and Foster have a great deal to say about human desire, sadomasochism, bondage, “forbidden” sexual expression in various forms, pleasure and pain. The Caustic Ballads has a very clear artistic vision, follows through on its promises, and should appeal to a broad audience interested in improvised, experimental and noise music.

–Cisco Bradley, March 22, 2016