PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

With 'Temporal' Julia Kent Fuses the Tactile and the Abstract

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

With an understanding of detail and texture, cellist Julia Kent's Temporal displays her intimate understanding of acoustic and electronic elements.

Julia Kent

The Leaf Label

25 January 2019

While the sonic expansion of electroacoustic music is commonplace in the art music world, its execution is not always inspired. It's entirely acceptable to augment a singer or a string quartet with electronic elements, to enhance acoustic performers with loops and glitches, but results can sometimes sound like an unsuccessful mashing of ideas, an awkward marriage that offers little more than a misguided experiment. The best performers and composers working in the electroacoustic world do more than simply blend the digital with the analog–they exploit the best elements each world. It's easy to get lost in the timbral and polyphonic possibilities of fusing computers with keyboards and strings, and sometimes it's best to rely on a few select musical ideas and present them in their best form.

Cellist and composer Julia Kent has an intimate understanding of electroacoustic music and the potential inherent within the sound. Several albums deep into a career experimenting with the genre, her catalog amasses how to best blend the organic and synthetic sides of music. Temporal, her latest on the Leaf Label, collects music initially conceived for as accompaniment for theatrical and dance productions. Divorcing music from its original context can result in a disjunct recording that suffers removed from its context, yet the richness of her compositions is as clear through headphones as they would be in a black box theater.

At 12 minutes in length, opening track "Last Hour Story" loops echoing pizzicatos atop droning melodies and electronic murmurs. It's a study in how simple melodies and ever-growing musical layers can simultaneously convey dread and intrigue. What the track lacks in variety it compensates for with a meditation on texture and resonance. By contrast, "Imbalance" fuses mournful melodies with skitters and throbs more akin to dance music, yet the result never sounds cheap or forced. Kent understands how unites these disparate elements that respect their source material while presenting them in an entirely new context.

Constructed of looped cello riffs and obscured piano melodies, "Floating City" trades in the same clear ideas of the epic opening track. The slickly produced track envelopes the listener in a clean modern aesthetic, a soothing enough work that doesn't build or take off like others on Temporal. "Through the Window" is similar in construction yet substantially more solid in execution. Its bittersweet ambiance comes from its childlike programmed jingles, melancholy melodies, and echoed plucked notes that sway like ghosts in the background of a photo.

The only slight downfall of the album comes with the repetition of its musical themes. "Sheared" and "Conditional Futures" are haunting works, but, in effect, Temporal is an album packed with haunting works. Aside from the opening "Last Hour Story" most tracks linger in the three or four-minute range, enough to introduce ideas and textures without overstaying their welcome. One can't argue it's difficult to find variety while blending cello and digital elements; Kent is a master of the art as her tracks all contain a depth and soul miles beyond most of the electronic/classical fusions available today. The individual tracks here are stellar enough, but it would be fascinating to hear what she could produce on a grand, evening-length performance scale.

Perhaps the tracks throughout Temporal have a strikingly different impact when paired with the theatrical and dance performances that inspired them. Taken solely as a musical product, however, they still shine, works with nuance and deep understanding of their source elements. Kent is a fantastic voice in the new music world–what comes next from her can only be striking and enthralling.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.