Kali Malone – Living Torch (Portraits GRM, 2022)

People are often quick to cite the difference between being alone, and loneliness. One is simply a situation, a status of sorts: the other is a condition, a feeling. As they always like to say, it’s perfectly possible to be surrounded by people and feel lonely, as though isolated from the rest somehow, or conversely to be alone but not wishing or needing to be with anyone at all.

It’s something that often needs explaining as the life of an introvert can sometimes seem puzzling. Humans after all are social creatures, and many find the idea of doing things alone (watching films, eating in restaurants) to be anathema. And it’s not that introverts don’t want or need social contact, quite the contrary, only that they (we) are quite content to be alone, especially to recharge the social battery.

Only it conjures confusing and peculiar paradoxes: do I want to be alone? Are my experiences with others transactional? Is this loneliness, now, only transient? If not, how do I bring someone into my life without upsetting my need for alone-ness?

I raise this in context with Malone’s Living Torch because of the isolating feeling it emanates through its meditative, if somewhat melancholy, synthetic drones and winds. While it treads lightly for the most part the first half is the less overt of the pair, floating in its suspended humming synth and gentle cyclic airs of blown trombone. It creeps almost, this insidious gnawing fog of self-doubt that settles on the horizon of our singular consciousness.

The second half doesn’t stray too far from its predecessor’s idiosyncrasies though coming across as considerably more wrought. After 18 minutes of tangible fragility the B side feels like the inevitable lapse, the sinking mire as it crushes the ARP2500 into waves of distortion alongside plaintive heaving trombone. Less of a yin to a yang, rather a logical progression having been kept in the darkness for so long, time bending away from us, losing sense of reality.

Like Malone’s other work, Living Torch is carefully crafted and sculpted to hone its radiative pressures: it’s as though sound is sublimating off the surface of her mind, steaming off in convective currents of thought and feeling, whisked away to be lost into an unsympathetic world. We are alone, each a point in the darkness, but we choose how that darkness shapes us and our proximity to other sources of light.