Given that this is his seventh recording under his own name, it's a bit surprising that Maldoror is cellist Erik Friedlander's first solo outing. Yet, given the drama, intensity, and dark sparkling beauty of the album, perhaps it took him this long to ramp up and go. As the title suggests, Maldoror is a series of ten improvisations based on poems in the collection Chants du Maldoror written by Isidore Ducasse as Comte de Lautremont (1846-1870), the preeminent influence on the Surrealists of the 20th century. In keeping with the spirit of surrealism, producer Michael Montes selected the ten pieces from the text, and then gave them to Friedlander, one at a time in the studio, with slight written direction. There were no second takes or overdubs. The session is released as recorded. Those familiar with Friedlander as a player will no doubt recognize his deep, earthly tone on his instrument. Well known as a player who brides and strides equally well between jazz, classical and vanguard music, Friedlander uses these exercises to create a timeless stroll though the "literariness" of music. His approach is avant-garde to be sure, but far from atonal. In fact, tonality and sonance are primary concerns here, allowing the nuance of language to come through the spaces and polytonal interactions with the written work. For all its intensity, it is nearly shockingly accessible, even with its far-flung and dramatic sense of dynamics. This is an album created to be listened to as one work, the individual selections all contribute to a haunting, hunted whole, and don't really exist well outside their framework as such. Nonetheless, this is a brilliantly conceived and executed recording, alluringly musical, and decadently humorous in places. As Friedlander's latest chapter, it is also his finest.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek