Friday, January 30, 2009

Loren Connors & Jim O'Rourke - Two Nice Catholic Boys (Family Vineyard CD)

Guitarists Loren Connors and Jim O'Rourke have individually been fixtures on the experimental music scene for years. Yet their frequent collaborations throughout the past decade have resulted in only one release preceding this, a collection of three pieces hand-picked by O'Rourke from performances the duo made on tour in Europe in 1997.
Two Nice Catholic Boys opens with a thick strum on "Maybe Paris," a track title which alludes to the ambiguity about exactly where each of these sets occurred. Wherever it did, the 22 minute piece is an impressive improvisatory feat as it opens with a soupy psychedelic wailing whose metallic energy is distinctly opposed to Connors' usual approach. Soon the piece slips into Connors' realm though, with languid folk meanderings gently swaying about. O'Rourke slips right into the piece as each note is carefully considered, displaying whole worlds of mood in its near silent excursion.

"Or Possibly Köln" displays a less peaceful side of the duo's sound, with tense feedback control and a slowly chugging background. As it builds steam, the piece moves into near drone territory, one axe-man providing the thick background blanket while the other sets up a choppy groove on top. This eventually steamrolls into a frenzy of guitar tone more in line with Fushitsusha than John Fahey. Thunderous as it is the work retains all of the detail and richness of sound that the quieter moments of the disc have as well. When the clamour all but stops in its tracks, the work slinks into equally bleak but softer realms as the two make clear their intimate musical relationship.

"Most Definitely Not Köln" is a near split between eerie sonic buildup and gentle comedown. The dichotomy and ease with which the piece shifts between these two modes is astounding. Slowly evolving across barren terrain, the two guitars scrape and bend their way into a sheet of near static before opening up into a wash of tones. Not unlike some of the material off of Neil Young's "Dead Man" soundtrack, the set soon dissolves, drifting into a near silent melody that is rendered all the more fragile and eloquent by the onslaught preceding it.

The disc represents a beautiful collaborative effort between two closely tied musical experimentalists. Somehow these two, whose typical musical pursuits often differ widely in nature, have managed to form a musical relationship that allows each to expand their standard repertoire in a creative and enriching way. The results make for great listening.

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