Review

Mary Halvorson

Cloudward

Nonesuch • 2024

Guitarist Mary Halvorson has reached the point where she can be considered a star. Just a few years ago, her name was one of those that came up when people talked about musicians to check out, but without assuming you’d heard of them. That’s definitely changed now. Halvorson’s style is characterised by a way of playing that at first seems reserved, even conventional. But that never lasts for long. Eventually she’ll add those glitchy glissandi that make her melodies seem to slip away uncontrollably, and melodies that start out simple and elegant can suddenly start to disintegrate in the course of a piece without ever descending into complete chaos. Halvorson tends to sneak up on her notes and attack them at an unexpected moment. Not to destroy them, but as if to make it clear that working with the material always involves a bit of violence. After all, the frequencies don’t vibrate on their own; they have to obey the will of the composer. On »Cloudward« she manages to do this in a way that balances the gentle and friendly with the jarring, combining the seemingly conventional with Halvorson’s own unique brand of weirdness in such a sophisticated way that it sounds like it couldn’t be any other way. Beauty with a crack, but one that’s preserved in the beauty.