Last year, I was hugely gratified to find this pair's previous release as toothsome as it was, a moody set of improv tunes by two guitarists steeped in a mindset not often displayed nowadays, pensive, dark, and hypnotizing. The lead cut here, Preludium, only affirms my best hope: more of the same composes the new outing, and that's a very good thing indeed. Both musicians play the rarely seen baritone guitar (John Abercrombie long ago picked up on the equally mysterious piccolo guitar, as has Srinivas, in order to attain the timbres desired—these guys have done up the opposite end of the sound scale), adding a richly resonant greymist to everything. As before, one can't help but return to ECM's moodier fusion days when guys like Ralph Towner and Bill Connors were composing for exactly this purview, a shadowland between darkness and light, the place where wandering souls pursue elusive thoughts and unsettling sentiments.
Preludium also pointed up a device I'd not as readily detected in last year's disc: the occasional use of the secondary guitar to match the lead in such a way that it can seem to be a drone synth, close attention paid to sonics and frequencies. Under an Evening Sky follows as one of their sparer cuts, more balladic, possessing a greater sky of negative space than is usual for the duo and with a much clearer top line, a story-telling aspect. Improfugue I speeds that process up but not to any degree of flashmanship. Even when this pair desires a brisker tempo, they never sacrifice a single note to achieve it, setting the pulse rate up only to contrast the underlying laconic atmospheres, often depositing mildly skewed confusions, hesitations, existential ruminations.
This is night music, what classicalists call 'nocturnes', and so aptly laid that it provides not only superb background and foreground material, as mood might dictate, but also perfect fall-asleep sounds, the listener drifting off to dreamland, giving way to a spell of interior complexities. Cordulia Aenea switches the norm, positing the secondary guitar's place into a bass-substitute not as a rhythm device but rather a second lead strictly kept to the bottom strings, thick notes rumbling off the prime position. The listener, before surrendering to lethean visions, utters a silent "Ahhhhh!" then sinks beneath consciousness. Only in such composers as Harold Budd, Roger Eno, and others will one locate such fare otherwise…though you won't find such marvelously agitated work as in Second Pleochroism there, here a jangly jarring affair strongly evoking Towner's Solstice period, as does Aeshna Cyanea, its connubial partner. Through everything, though, one finds constant intrigue within a set of songs compelling revealed that, perhaps ironically, are strangely settling. Maybe it's just the comfort one finds in knowing that two individuals can set the more unusual of our thought processes to music so perfectly. Therefore, investigate this work when you're athirst for maturer landscapes dotted with myriad sound sculpturing, philosophically more tantalizing than what 95% of the market could possibly offer.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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