At Free fall, composer Maya Shenfeld combines punk-inspired feedback with bright electronics and classic shapes. It’s his first solo album, but it’s built on years of exploration across musical genres. While she is a classically trained composer living in Berlin, her musical interests have strayed from this path and ventured into more experimental and boisterous ones. Free fall, whose name comes from an essay by Hito Steyerl that describes the feeling of a loss of stability, sees her seeking the happy medium between these musical practices, seeking to dissolve the boundaries between them. What unites all these different ideas is Shenfeld’s tireless interest in musical texture. The music she writes here is polished but amorphous, made up of undulating masses of sound that swirl around each other.
Shenfeld’s interest in mixing genres is a constant driving force throughout the album. On some tracks, lush electronics transform into structured acoustic melodies; on others, feedback and gritty noise combine with mellow electronics to create a fuzzy soup of sound. Many tracks take on drone and ambient styles, exploring the transport power of deep listening. Although each track sounds like it’s shrouded in a misty cloud, there’s still a careful attention to detail present throughout, which highlights the contours of the sounds we hear while letting them coalesce.
Free fallThe most successful moments are those that build on Shenfeld’s metaphorical interest in change and the constant turmoil of going through it. On ‘Body, Electric,’ simple melodies meet an urgency that pushes forward, repeating in syncopation and swirling around an ubiquitous drone, while ‘Anaphora’ is built on tension and release, soft unisons. inhaling and exhaling, dwelling on dissonance as well as consonance. In those moments – fast paced, patient – Shenfeld sits with the feeling of unease and then lets it fade away with a pool of sound.
The album’s least compelling moments come when Shenfeld moves away from creating peaks and valleys in favor of a more balanced sound. On “Sadder Than Water,” for example, she writes a desperate, baroque-tinged melody that seems locked in place, while “Silver” offers a light sheen with no layers deeper than the surface. In those moments, there are elements that make the other tracks so engrossing, but they’re undercooked, less textured, and less detailed.
Those few dull moments don’t detract from the sweeping, transporting feel of Free fall, although. Just like its namesake, Free fall it often feels like it’s floating, but it never quite makes the hard landing you’d expect from the pull of gravity. Rather, it stays in the atmosphere, dwelling on the feeling of uncertainty of a jump, just before your feet hit the ground.