On her debut album for Victo, the former Michigander and downtown New York music stalwart enlisted the skills of three of her four sisters, producer David Shea, electronic percussion maestro Ikue Mori, and guitar hero Chris Cochrane. Truly an avant-garde chamber work, "Ursa's Door" employs strings, electric harp, voices, found sound, piano, and electric guitar to realize the complex methodologies of group improvisation in a tightly structured context. While there is no "melodic" framework per se in Parkins' work, the various harmonic intervals suggest one or two. And while there are no "movements" proper, this is a symphonette, full of dynamic shifts, contrapuntal assignations, and the dramatic mechanics suggested by the appearance of a "conductor" in David Shea. It's fun, this work; its dissonances and atonal slashes and burns are more than soothed by the warmth, humor, and technical virtuosity of the players. A second and much shorter work, "Flush," explores a microtonal universe governed by mode and polyrhythmic changes in harmonic and physical characteristics. This is music as physical and psychical universe, related phrase by phrase through an ever-shifting continuum of silences and dynamic restraint. It's as if the work has no body, but creates one through the interplay and layering of strings. Only Mori's percussion suggests an alien presence in the work. Zeena Parkins has been recognized as a composer of merit and substance for her Tzadik and Avant recordings; this one should be included in her canon as a pair of works worthy of note.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek