I never heard the series of online collaborations leading to this duo recording, but after spending some time picking up on what these two veteran musicians are putting down, it seems like a good idea! Only two of these miniatures breaks the five-minute boundary, but as might be expected, they all add up to that well-worn but entirely apt cliché about wholes and parts.
To begin parsing those other cliches, the ones about composition and improvisation, seems rude but makes sense here, especially as the contrast works so well. If the first two pieces, "Andy's Eye" and "Virtual Nature," don't drive the point home, nothing will. The former casts the listener into something like a rivulet of cymbal and saxophone interplay, always the same but in the constant flux of water or smoke as melody and rhythm evolve in Protean tandem. I love to luxuriate in the moment when Rainey's toms enter, bolstering those growling repetitions Laubrock floats so convincingly over that modal complex pervading the whole thing. That concluding thwack never fails to bring a smile. The latter's mapped metrics and melodic layers, this time with Laubrock switching from tenor to soprano and Rainey wielding the scintillating combo of brush and stick, brings compositional invention to the fore, at least initially. Register is as much the duo's plaything as are time and rhythm. Have you ever heard anything more beautiful than Laubrock's multiphonics amidst Rainey's deliciously brushed cymbals? While I'm in questioning mode, where have I heard that melodic line beginning at 0:37? Is it something out of the Giles Giles and Fripp book, or am I looking for non-existent references again?
Either way, these tracks lay the groundwork, and the rest of the album follows glorious suit. A particular favorite around here is "Foisted Fables," a slyly constructed narrative of quasi-groove and melodic fragment that border on trope; what fun! All the parts should cohere, and they do, but, like the kid's sandcastle or the politician's off-the-cuff remarks, things fall apart just as quickly, far from a problem in the music universe. If there's one thing unifying these delectable vignettes, it's the invention pouring out of them. The disc demonstrates just how versatile the duo can be, and it sets the bar extremely high for any subsequent project involving similar forces.
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