By Pat Maran | From the November-December 2023 issue of Strings Magazine
She Sees, Erik Friedlander’s fourth release since his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2016 and the second collection from the legendary cellist’s garage jazz rock consortium Sentinel, is dark, visionary, and genre bending. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun, a hypothetical hit record from an alternative universe where Peter Brötzmann, Tom Waits, and the elastic guttural twang of Morphine are bigger than the Beatles.
Sentinel’s newest addition, bassist Stomu Takeishi, adds depth to the combo. His prowling bass performs a contrapuntal mating dance with Friedlander’s snapping, reverberating cello throughout the album. It’s a tension-filled courtship without consummation.
There’s more to this collection, however, than the low end. As Friedlander’s pizzicato cello slips through the leathery tendrils of Takeishi’s woozy bass on “Summit,” Ava Mendoza’s harsh tremolo guitar sends shock waves of distortion from the depths of David Lynch’s Black Lodge. As Diego Espinosa’s scattershot drums strut down a rain-swept alley past Friedlander’s snake-charmer cello on “Sliding,” the slinky ensemble threatens to fall apart but deftly snaps back into a jazz rock groove with astounding elasticity. Similarly, Friedlander’s buzzing ostinato dive-bombs Mendoza’s 1960s private eye TV show theme on “Soak! Soak!” before Espinosa’s hissing hi-hats drive the guitar riff through multiple time signatures.
Friedlander’s cello emits a whirling dervish ululation over Espinosa’s kinetic percussion onrush in “Rush, Rush Slowly.” Then Mendoza’s overdriven Middle Eastern surf guitar conjures the ghost of Dick Dale.
On the set’s closing tune “Moneycake: Corrupting,” Friedlander’s cello even whinnies like a horse before entwining with Mendoza’s knotty guitar tarantella. In the process, the visionary ensemble derails a blues rock riff and drags it to a film noir crime scene by way of a carnival midway in the moonlight.