A phosphene is "the phenomenon of seeing light without light entering the eye." The title of the heart-rending and resolute new album by composer/violinist Jessica Moss could not be better chosen. Moss is by now a seasoned practitioner of immersive isolation music; across three previously acclaimed solo records of minimal and maximal post-classicism, her acoustic, amplified, and electronically-shifted violin is the raw material for deeply expressive, palpably haunted, wholly committed compositions.
This is the most overtly searching, mournful and inexorable music Moss has made to date. The pieces on Phosphenes exquisitely navigate consonance and dissonance, building patiently from single notes to multiple voicings, harmonic stacks and clusters. These compositions channel themselves like slow-moving water in a dark cave, finding small eddies and catching glints of luminescence from within.
Everyone has been trying to find a way through and out of pandemic, lockdown, social isolation and often darkened hope - and for many musicians, the absence of touring, of live performance, live sound, live audiences, and a living. For Moss, it's also been "like when you press your fists hard against your eyes and eventually there is fireworks." The light gets in where it can, even or maybe especially as imaginative sensory simulacra (if/when we shut down our screens and are left to our own devices). Recorded alone at home and in her rehearsal space, reconstituted with best friend and long-standing co-producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh at Montreal's Hotel2Tango studio as restrictions loosened in summer 2021, mastered by James Plotkin; Phosphenes is a stoic, acutely sensitive, superlative musical statement from Moss.