Within the first few minutes of Perhaps a Favorable Organic Moment, the listener is treated to an engrossing intimacy, an interlocutory field recording between Anne Guthrie’s sources and herself. The opening track, “Bach Cello Suite No. 2, Prelude I,” commences with minutes of the sounds of sparse traffic, maybe from Guthrie’s open window. It is in these introductory moments that Perhaps constructs Guthrie’s sound world, the environment in which the remainder of the album confides.
Just shy of five minutes into this track, Guthrie’s french horn appears out of the airy ambiance (the french horn isn’t credited on the album, but the instrument’s regal timbres are unmistakeable), playing a transcribed version of Bach’s titular Cello Suite No. 2, Prelude. The mic’ing is distant and unfocused, capturing the room’s hiss, the clatter of the horn’s keys against its brass, and Guthrie’s breaths, all alongside the suite. Notes are often just off; Guthrie frequently restarts mistaken passages. “Bach Cello Suite No. 2, Prelude I” could easily be an extempore sight reading, presenting Guthrie and her space, its view and all. The playing isn’t perfect, yet the recording is; the track is refreshingly relatable, as opposed to the virtuosity of Fournier or Rostropovich.
If the first part’s earnest nature was arresting, the second is utterly naked in comparison. In and of itself, “Bach Cello Suite No. 2, Prelude II” is a warped, glass-rubbed piece with flickers of recognizable sounds. And, when played beside “Bach Cello Suite No. 2, Prelude I,” it becomes immediately apparent that “Bach Cello Suite No. 2, Prelude II’s” source is in fact “Bach Cello Suite No. 2, Prelude I.” This candor is devastatingly affecting, once again allowing the listener to hear a part of Perhaps from Guthrie’s perspective — a gorgeous one, I might add.
“Times Center, NYC 2010” is an intermission from the above narrative, presenting a more conventional, though nonetheless beautiful, field recording. Presumably capturing the titular space, the track builds into the everyday squalor of New York City. The space sounds claustrophobic, full of traffic, the subway, and children’s yells. As the piece progresses, Guthrie injects a tonal drone, which dominates by the track’s end.
In a delightful symmetry, Perhaps is concluded by “Annie Laurie I” and “Annie Laurie II.” As the names suggest, the relationship between the two is akin to that of “Prelude I” and “Prelude II.” However, on this side of “Times Center, NYC 2010,” we’re first given the finished, treated piece. “Annie Laurie I” begins with hums heard in “Times Center, NYC 2010,” a modulated tunnel of traffic, perhaps. A few minutes in, an unsure female voice enters, singing a familiar but obfuscated tune. Throughout the piece, this voice (presumably Guthrie’s) enters for seconds, all the while submissive to its surroundings. For the duration of “Annie Laurie I,” the origin of the sung melody is forever on the tip of your tongue, mocking your inability to place it.
Luckily Perhaps can’t keep a secret for too long, revealing the melody in its conventional performance on “Annie Laurie II,” the titular, traditional Scottish song. Completing the portrayal of the reverse side of the input/output dynamic in musique concrète, “Annie Laurie II” is a fitting end to one of the most honest and intimate albums I’ve heard in quite a while.