You can never really know the ocean better than it knows itself. You must approach it with a reverence for its strength and a vigilance for its turns. On Strange Waves, cellist Kate Ellis and composer Ed Bennett take conscientious estimations of the sea and bring them to the centre of six deeply contemplative tracks which brilliantly encapsulate its majesty and magnitude. Written for eight cellos and with field recordings threaded through the spine of each composition, one could approach Strange Waves with an expectation of being overwhelmed by claustrophobic texture. Yet Ellis and Bennett create not only room to breathe but expansive and interesting vistas through conscientious dynamic shifts, expertly positioned moments of dissonance and the use of lapping waves as a pulse around which to orbit.
There is a hypnotic quality to the songs, with overlapped textures and dronelike sustains suspending the listener and bringing them to an imagined shoreline. The at times rocking, uneasy cellos call to mind the insidiousness of the current – innocuous to the unknowing eye yet devastating. The way each track dissolves into silence recalls a coming up to the surface for air, the sensation of being enveloped by the water followed by the sheer rush of its absence. This is not a soundscape you merely approach; Ellis and Bennett have created a body of work that the listener is wholly submerged in. Strange Waves is a testament to a fully embodied observation of nature and both artists’ understanding of space, timing and the magnetic force of the sea.
Words: Julie Landers