Thursday, June 4, 2009

Khoury + Hall - Battlefield Medicine (Bug Incision Records CD-R)

Rolling right along here, this time continuing with the Bug Incision batch I got from Bent Spoon's Chris Dadge a ways back. Chris actually sent me an album that Ben Hall had given me way back that I had intended to cover but had lost, so it's nice to have a second go at this. A duo comprised of violinist Mike Khoury and Hall himself, this is some real shit, and manages to fit right in with the Bug Incision sound that's beginning to emerge.

Broken into five extended tracks, the duets are super tight and carefully conceived. From the opener, Khoury's lines draw themselves outwards from Hall's colorful percussion, meeting somewhere between AMM style improv and strange other worldly alien sounds. The first track alone moves between these various realms, opening in some lowercase style action, each instrument taking full part in the proceedings before splaying apart and drifting into what sounds like vocal drones and violin lines refueling the piece at every turn. When Hall comes back in on drums the work closes itself out with a kind of restrained fire music, totally strange and really impressive stuff.

Every track here's a winner though. The second piece opens with some timpani style thuds and ricochets met with cymbal taps and slow violin stretches. Khoury's got a knack for exploring the more embittered sonic potential of his instrument without losing any mobility or expressive potential, and he keeps this on display throughout here, spreading out across the neck and loosely drawing the bow while Hall's always thoughtful punctuation ruminates before reverberating into alien sound waves. Third track starts super stark, but Khoury's violin line almost recalls some Eastern European folk melody or something while the fourth features some fine solo work from Hall, who never fully unleashes a torrent but rather paints a picture of some odd ritual, especially toward the track's end.

The final track is probably the sparest presented here, with little extending beyond a hushed stream of improv. The duo never really let rip like they can here, and instead seemed more focused on constructing a logical whole. When this is the case, especially with musicians of this ability, the results are marvelous. There's this hyper-tense strain running throughout as the two tightly interlock their styles and paly off one another. It doesn't get much more intimate than this. One of the best so far this year in my book.

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