Ernesto Diaz-Infante & Chris Forsyth | Wires and Wooden Boxes

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Wires and Wooden Boxes

by Ernesto Diaz-Infante & Chris Forsyth

Their 2nd studio release recorded in NY 2001 of improvised duets for acoustic & electric guitars, & piano. jagged Bailey-esque, percussive, free jazz inspired & meditative post-Feldman piano. "Recommended." --François Couture, All Music Guide
Genre: Avant Garde: Experimental
Release Date: 

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1. NYC Journal excerpt (2000) piano/guitar
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2. metallic strands... acoustic/electric #14
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3. sound is good all the time
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4. straight to it
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5. pulled wires... acoustic/electric #13
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6. passing one another... acoustic/electric #17
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7. knock on wood... acoustic/electric #11
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8. cut and dried... acoustic/electric #2
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9. to place in... acoustic/electric #12
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10. trace out motion
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Ernesto Diaz-Infante: acoustic steelstring guitar, piano, small percussion.
Chris Forsyth: electric guitar, soundboard extracted from an old upright piano, toy piano, small percussion.

All compositions by Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Chris Forsyth.
Recorded by Ross Bonadonna at Wombat Recording CO., Brooklyn, NY.

The approach we've taken with this new release is different from our previous (first) recorded collaboration, "Left & Right." "Left & Right" was conceived as a series of long-distance duets, with Ernesto laying down guitar tracks in California and Chris adding his own tracks at a later date back home in Brooklyn. "Wires and Wooden Boxes," on the other hand, was recorded in real time, in one studio, together.

However, we wanted to create something more than a record of two people improvising on guitars and piano. First, we expanded the instrumentation to include not only guitars and piano, but also small percussion and some items that we found at the studio—notably, a soundboard extracted from an old upright piano, a toy piano, and various additional percussion instruments. Then, we applied strategic approaches to our improvisations, which were discussed prior to recording each piece.

For “NYC Journal excerpt (2000) piano guitar,” Ernesto uses pitch and harmonic structures as springboards for spacious and delicate improvisation, while Chris limits himself to the grounding hum and static created by touching the power cord to the input jack of his electric guitar. The piece is derived from a series of daily location-based journal pieces for solo piano, that combine haiku influenced notated music, spontaneous ink drawings, and words. “Sound is Good All the Time” is a piece for piano soundboard and acoustic guitar in which the instruments are rubbed and scratched and tweaked, making music with an emphasis on sound rather the fixed pitches of the scale. The guitar duets are possibly the most spontaneous. We’d say, let’s concentrate on the electric tones, let’s play the guitar like a drum, let’s avoid notes, or let’s try this open tuning. And then we’d just play. Ernesto generally uses alligator clips, extreme alternate tunings, screwdrivers, bells, and other objects to elicit a wide range of timbres from his acoustic guitar, often concentrating on the percussive and frictional end of the sound spectrum. Chris produces his sounds using more common equipment: electric guitar, amplifier, volume pedal, and distortion box.

These pieces are designed to be performed repeatedly and to sound different at each performance. That’s the fun (and challenge) of it: to work within a framework, but to make it somehow new every time. It’s a goal that is common in jazz, blues, and folk musics, as well. As any musician who’s ever improvised extensively (for anyone who’s followed improve music) knows, the “free approach can yield vocabularies and styles which become rigid and repetitive over time. Our approach to “Wires and Wooden Boxes” is an attempt to find some new spaces in our collaboration by incorporating a level of pre-meditated composition into the process of improvisation. –EDI/CF, April, 2001


Reviews


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Edward Gray, Independent Mind

You’ll find no better example of unapologetically out-the-door-and-through the-w
wires and wooden boxes is the second recorded collaboration between Diaz-Infante and NYC-based free-electric guitarist Forsyth. Six of the 10 tracks are purely acoustic/electric duets, ranging from low-key rumble and plink to ruminative note-explorations. I’ve raved here about Forsyth’s abilities here before, but I’ll say it again: You’ll find no better example of unapologetically out-the-door-and-through the-window free guitar in the current underground. And he’s found a perfect foil in Diaz-Infante. The two, in their first real time recorded encounter, seem truly at home with each other’s abilities and possibilities. The remaining tracks utilize piano, toy piano, and "small percussion" in a manner that, especially on the eight minute-plus "sound is good all the time," allows the listener to fully partake in the musicians’ creation all around. You can’t help but feel/think, Damn they’re having fun. And so are you.

Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations

But overall a fine pair of recordings featuring Diaz-Infante and Forsyth hat I e
Here we have two new and very different releases featuring Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Chris Forsyth. Wires And Wooden Boxes is the second collaboration from the duo. I haven't heard the first (Left & Right), though that release was recorded with each musician on separate coasts, whereas Wires And Wooden Boxes resulted from the two being physically in the same studio.

Wires And Wooden Boxes could easily be subtitled "Adventures In Music And Sound", or perhaps even "The Sound Of Music", as the variety and combination of sounds are front and center stage across the CD's ten tracks. The promo sheet points out each musicians' approach to playing the guitar, with Diaz-Infante using extreme alternate tunings and various objects to elicit sounds from his acoustic guitar, and Forsyth using more conventional equipment like volume pedal and distortion box with his electric guitar. The result is that each musicians' contributions are easily distinguished from the other, which makes the beauty of the resulting music all the more apparent.

A few of the tracks pair piano and guitar, and while the guitar duo pieces tended to excite me the most, the piano/guitar track "Straight To It" is one of my favorites on the album. The two duel furiously with one another, building the pace and culminating in a wild out-jazz freakout. The music has an intense feel and I could see it working well with an appropriate theater piece.

Several of the guitar tracks are numbered "Acoustic/Electric" pieces. This is BUSY music and the players accomplish as much as an entire band. I can just see Ernesto's hands moving wildly over his acoustic guitar while Forsyth at times kicks out more discernable rock licks (though there's little that's conventional about them). Another one of my favorites is "Sound Is Good All The Time". Raking over what I gather are piano strings gives the music an orchestral feel, which provides a pleasant backdrop for the maddened parade of sounds, both guitars and percussion, that fly about. The pace and volume of the music shifts dramatically, and I think the quieter moments provide the most tension.

The real joy of these pieces is the way in which they straddle the line between the accessible and the abstract. There's really quite a bit about this music that is recognizable and friendly, making it easier to latch on to the variety of sounds, tones, bashes, and clangs that come together to create a set of cohesive pieces.

On the harsher, angrier, and more aggressive side is Rev. 99, a quartet of Diaz-Infante, Forsyth, g3 powerbook noise musician Akio Mokuno, and ranting poet and sax player 99 Hooker. The promo sheet provides an interesting description of the recording as "environmental improvisation", which attempts to deal with the difference between recorded music and live performance.

Music like this is certainly always better appreciated in live performance, especially as regards a performer like 99 Hooker who I'd not heard of prior to Turn A Deaf Ear. Hooker's anguished rants immediately brought to mind Bobcat Goldthwaite (voice and speech patterns), but the comedian Bobcat is just silly whereas 99 Hooker communicates an enraged passion. But the rants added to the grating guitars and bleeping electronics made for an intriguing combination of contrasts, and when Ernesto plays piano the jazzy style makes for an even more noticeable contradiction that works well with the noisier sounds. Guitars and sax often go off on wild noise jams while the piano remains in it's own jazz jamming realm. These contrasts are most noticeable on "Olde Tyme Unnatural Rock n' Roll", where we get shades of Bob Segar, though only after the entire press run of his best selling hits have been run through a meat grinder. Hooker goes manic on the rants backed by pleasant jazzy piano and subtle noise bits.

One of my favorite tracks is "Your Title Here", a beautifully chaotic blend of guitars, piano, and electronics. Quirky jazz piano and out-acid guitars duke it out while the electronics swirl about. "Possum Ridge Paralyzer" is a tense 20 minute work in which Hooker does the demon thing while the guitars and electronics paint the eerie atmosphere around him. The surroundings are overwhelmingly dark and the intensity builds steadily throughout. Hooker also kicks out some interesting sax licks and I'd love to hear him take off a bit rather than just blasting out the brief teasers that he does.

In some ways Turn A Deaf Ear is similar to the music heard on Wires And Wooden Boxes but with an avant improv theatrical acid rock edge. There are some excellent instrumental moments and these proved to be the strongest parts for this listener as the vocal rants didn't always work for me. But overall a fine pair of recordings featuring Diaz-Infante and Forsyth hat I enjoyed hearing back to back.

Mike W., somomu

Wires and Wooden Boxes' is an exercise in free improvisation within self-imposed
Wires and Wooden Boxes' is an exercise in free improvisation within self-imposed boundaries. Before each track, Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Chris Forsyth came up with a direction that they'd take while performing, forcing them to focus on navigating the music together rather than shooting down the rapids of experimentation with only carte blanche as a compass.

The opening track is the most arresting. 'NYC Journal excerpt (2000) piano/guitar' is based on music interpreted from ink drawings and scraps of words, somehow guiding the duo as they create the track with piano and static generated from the input jack and live power-cord plug of an electric guitar. The journey sounds as if it's grounded in an uneasy companionship between Morton Feldman and Aube. Tentative and restrained explorations on the piano produce a climate of foreboding, while the stabs of electricity cut through this delicacy like a machete.

Other tracks forego this dichotomy and opt for a more direct delivery. 'Straight To It' moves like a river that flows to a waterfall. Quick, short runs on the piano grow stronger in volume and frequency. An electric guitar joins in, duplicating the turbulence until the two tumble over each other in a vehement rush. 'Pulled Wires... "Acoustic/Electric #13"' doesn't even bother with a build-up. Acoustic and electric guitars are pulled and plucked viciously, the strings glistening with the abuse.

As mentioned in the liner notes to 'Wires and Wooden Boxes', in improv music "... the 'free' approach can often yield vocabularies and styles which become rigid and repetitive over time". Diaz-Infante and Forsyth circumvent this stagnation by ensuring that their compositions, and the way that they build them, are challenging and fresh from the beginning.

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews

...Bo Diddley and Marcel Duchamp in one startling inner gaze!
The title of this CD makes me think of Bo Diddley and Marcel Duchamp in one startling inner gaze! Maybe that is not so off either, with some Diddleyish strumming and some Duchampian ready-mades allowed into the vibrancy of the sounding space!

When this duo emerges again – their last release together; “Left & Right”, in fresh memory – it is with a slightly different set of circumstances and new ideas. The last recording was done in solitary confinements across the U.S.A., since Forsyth recorded his parts on the East Coast and Diaz-Infante in his region over on the hip West Coast, swapping musical clips across the continent like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg delivering poems by car or boxcar-boxcar-boxcar through the Grandfathers’ nights of the 1950s from New York to San Francisco and vice versa – but now by the faster means of the digital era… This set of recordings, though, was realized and made manifest with both musicians present, which of course is a totally different aspect of music-making; a more traditional way – but traditionalism is not to be expected when these extremely innovative, diligent and spiritual sound-mongers are at ease!

For one thing, they have extended their range of instruments since last time, now exploring for example an upright piano soundboard, toy piano etcetera, while alternate tunings also are utilized. Diaz-Infante applies screwdrivers, alligator clips and bells to enhance his acoustic guitar, while Forsyth uses a distortion box, a volume pedal and more.

The first piece – “NYC Journal excerpt (2000) piano/guitar” - works with extremes, which enhance each other, throw a bright light on each other. You hear Diaz-Infante in crystal clear, meditative piano threads; thin, sparse, transparent, with Forsyth’s self-inflicted electric static from the guitar’s input jacket! The effect is simply beautiful. The static itself resembles the eerie sounds of “Over de Dood en de Tijd” by Gilius van Bergeijk, which is a latter day homage to Schubert and his “Der Tod und das Mädchen”. Diaz-Infante and Forsyth pan the center of attention between the scratchy static and the wonderful timbres of the crystal piano, and my ears accept the sonic indecencies with pleasure!

“metallic strands… acoustic/electric #14” is a plucking, munching, trilling kind of journey, hand and fingers fumbling all over the resounding environment. This is probably – though genuinely mad – more in the improvising gender, out on a limb. There are more ways to make a guitar sing than Johnny B. Goode could ever have dreamt, and the brittle and sometimes crude flows out of the cornucopia of these two gentlemen who span a continent!

It strikes me, listening to track 3 – “sound is good all the time” – how much that piece has in common with some of the intuitive music of Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1968. I’m especially thinking of one of the pieces out of “Aus den sieben Tagen”; “Intenistät”, the way it came out when recorded in 1969, later issued as part of Volume 14 (seven CDs) of the Stockhausen Edition. Much of the handicraft notion (as if the music is hammered and sawed and polished in a carpenter’s workshop) is present on Diaz-Infante’s & Forsyth’s CD too, and maybe that is the farthest you can get on the road towards that elusive golden age of fulfilled improvisation, in which all the aspects of sound and motion come together in one line of vibrating sound, or a dense fabric of sound, like a standing wave through space and time. It’s a crunchy piece of work too, at times, in a mimicry of corn flakes flowing out of the package down into the bowl when it’s good-morning-time in the land.

Track 4 – “straight to it” – has Diaz-Infante coming on like he did on “Solus”, with notes tripping over each other in a heads-over-heels fashion, only this is no piano solo piece. Instead Forsyth’s electric guitar performs a shadow dance blotting-paper-close to Diaz-Infante’s spurting spirals of over-powering speed-keyboards. It’s fascinating to hear how these musicians are as one on this rather complicated piece. Again I get associations to Stockhausen, and this time to “Sirius”, in which the soloists sometimes achieve synchronousity that is out of this world. I’m very impressed by what these guys do on this track. It’s magic managing to keep this event together, especially when Diaz-Infante gets into a fury worthy of the faster pieces by player-piano-guru Conlon Nancarrow.

“pulled wires…acoustic/electric #13” again feels more at home in the down home improvising nitty-gritty of spellbinders, the guys performing on electrified and non-electric guitars, with all the bending maneuvers you can think of to twist and pull a set of strings; holy smoke and holy medallion!

“passing one another… acoustic/electric # 17” is a beautifier with comments on 1960’s and 70’s bar benders. Somewhere inside all this bravura and ingenuity a “Stairway to Heaven” is hidden, if only by color and atmosphere; I can feel it (like Hal said…). This definitely is a comment on the Byrds too, with a real 12-string feel to it, and groups like Yes receive homage! I wonder if Diaz-Infante and Forsyth thought about this when laying this tune down on digital media; no matter what – it’s beautiful and touching, full of color and bursting with feelings!

Track 7 is called “knock on wood… acoustic/electric # 11”. A lot of knocking on the acoustic guitar is going on; very percussive, while Forsyth twangs and bends his amplified strings in a splendor. The activity is intense, and I can see the guys bending towards each other in a “c’mon!” of startling energy! Diaz-Infante has attached bells to his acoustic guitar, which enhance, and comment on, his sleek fingerings.

Number 8 is “cut and dried… acoustic/electric 2”. Brittle and soaring acoustic Diaz-Infante guitar strings get the piece moving ever so lightly and gently, as Forsyth accommodates himself in this rather sparsely populated area with equally gentle electrifications. The speed picks up while the gentle touch remains, and we’re making our way through dense bamboo groves. Later Diaz-Infante is trying – in vain? – to shake the lice loose from inside his guitar, and the piece calms down abruptly, the shaking and scratching easing off into inter-track digital silence.

“to place in… acoustic/electric # 12” emerges out of a submarine sound world of shiny fish scratching bellies on sharp reefs as the light from above the surface reaches down in billowing movements to the swaying undersea plants. A seaman drops a mash of crushed rusk from the rail of his 19th century ship, and it floats down like a pointillist maze of guitar tones all around the two musicians.



The 10th and last piece on this CD – “trace out motion” - starts off with a Rileyish “In C” piano pulse, which changes pitch over and over again, while Forsyth tries to get inside the event with distant, short bursts of his electric guitar. Little bells ring like a saffron yellow Hare Krishna persuasion, as the bald-heads are giving you a book of Bhagavad-Gita on a busy street, telling you it’s a gift, looking sour as you take their word for it and leave without as much as a frown with the book, stacking it in your cozy quarters beside all the Jehovah’s Witnesses books and the bound edition of the Bardo Thödol; the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The tune takes on a guise of a mixture of Debussy, La Monte Young and Lubomyr Melnyk (impressionism, minimalism and continuous music), and the piece – and the CD - times out slowly and wonderfully into the silence of interstellar space, through which all energies flows for ever and ever.

Richard di Santo, Incursion

an interesting work with more than a few twists and turns...
With a number of impressive releases on Pax Recordings for solo piano, and last seen on Pith Balls and Inclined Planes with Jeff Kaiser (released on pfMentum), Ernesto Diaz-Infante has certainly been making his mark in improvisation circles. Chris Forsyth, too, a New York based guitarist, has been keeping busy as a member of the improv collectives All Time Present and W.O.O. Revelator (among others), and is also the curator of the Bunker Annex series of improvised music at the Knitting Factory. Wires and Wooden Boxes, recorded in real time with no further editing, features shared performances on guitar, piano, an extracted piano soundboard, percussion and voice. The pieces were created, as the performers describe in their liner notes, "by incorporating a level of premeditated composition in the process of improvisation." Using a host of strange objects and more conventional equipment in their performances (including alligator clips, screwdrivers and distortion box), the duo is able to coax a host of wild sounds from their guitars (acoustic for Diaz-Infante, and electric for Forsyth). The pieces are diverse in mood and structure, ranging from more meditative arrangements (via Diaz-Infante's haiku inspired notations for piano in "NYC Journal excerpt", or the melodic playfulness of "Passing One Another") to more cathartic moments (as in "Pulled Wires", or "To Place In", where the duo employs more aggressive and dizzying playing techniques). The former captivates, while the latter sometimes irritates, but such is the case with challenging, more esoteric works such as this. In all, an interesting work with more than a few twists and turns to keep you on your toes.

Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation

MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, it's also the "PICK" of this issue for "best live impro
There IS "never a moment that's not razor-sharp" in a musical work with this duo on it!  You'll also find that there is always some combination of sounds you never "quite thought of" before.... 'coz that's THEIR job - coming up with the strange and beautiful from the ether.  Ernesto's introspective piano is featured on the opening cut... very open spaces, plenty of room for you (the listener) to dream dreams and explore new horizons.  Though the title might make you believe the improvisations were going to be somehow abrasive, there's none of that here... throughout the CD, you'll find the intricate sounds are rendered without whistle/pop & clearly.  Chris has a playing style that feels quite "bloozy", which makes for some very odd interplays with Ernesto's acoustic.  It's like a sorta' "accessible" improv style, but it holds FIRMLY to the idea that improvisation(s) should continue to nove - there's not ONE stagnant moment on the album.  Live studio recording, as opposed to their last one ("left & right"), which was a remote recording put together betwixt NYC & SF.  If you are looking for something that is both challenging & accessible (in a strange sort of way) - this is IT, folks.  Not only gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, it's also the "PICK" of this issue for "best live improv"! 

Marco Paolucci, Kathodik

un disco veramente fuori dalla regola. A dir poco affascinante.
La prima uscita del duo si intitolava Left & Right ed era stata composta ognuno a casa sua, cioè Ernesto Diaz-Infante in California e Chris Forsyth a Brooklyn. Questo nuovo album, uscito per l'etichetta Pax Recordings di San Francisco, è invece composto in "tempo reale" con i due musicisti insieme in uno studio.
L'opera è una sorta di compendio ad uso dei futuri "sperimentatori" su come possano interagire, amalgamarsi e dialogare insieme chitarre elettriche, pianoforti, tastiere, tastiere gocattolo e piccole percussioni. Ogni pezzo è un'incontro/scontro di strumenti che cercano di creare ciò che può avvicinarsi ad una forma canzone, combinando i suoni prodotti dai loro strumenti "usati" in maniera per così dire atipica. Pianoforte e jack della chitarra elettrica "trattato" (mai udito prima d'ora) in Nyc Journal Except (2000) Piano/Guitar, tastiere e corde della chitarra acustica strofinate, scratchate e spostate, girate e rigirate, pizzicate in Sound Is Good All The Time. Chitarre suonate come percussioni, effetti a tutto andare, melodie prodotte con seria e precisa logica improvvisativa, tali da permettere ai musicisti di eseguire il loro set ogni volta in modo diverso producendo uno "sconcertante" spettro sonoro. La tavolozza di effetti a cui attingono permette questo ed altro ancora per un disco veramente fuori dalla regola. A dir poco affascinante.

Bret Hart, The Unheard Music

surreal meditations and confrontations result; to fascinating effect.
Diaz-Infante is the Seurat of contemporary improvised music, and that's a tall order.  Pointillistic and deliberate in approach, his guitar & piano playing evokes abruptly broken stillnesses, scary things bobbing up out of ponds, objects falling from trees in Autumn.  Forsyth is more of an action painter, carefully splashing hue and texture onto the big canvas that is our world.  You can hear him reaching around that piano soundboard like Phineas J. Whoopie reaching into his packed closet.  Together, surreal meditations and confrontations result; to fascinating effect.  I particularly like how they've retained the sound of the spaces in which these pieces were recorded.  I can hear the room, and wish I could have been in it while they were recording the expansive and thick sound is good all the time, so that I could sneak a few gasps and "Ah!'s" onto the tape.  Recorded in real-time using graphic scores and structured approaches to improvisation.

Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz

...it is all about two artists delving into the outer regions of abstraction.
Multi-instrumentalist, Ernesto Diaz-Infante is apt to tackle either minimalist style themes, brimming with melodic frameworks and lush voicings or engage in John Cage-like musings with free-improvisational guitarist, Chris Forsyth. With their second collaboration, this 2001 release features more of the somewhat alien discourses witnessed on the duo?s previous effort, ?Left & Right.? On the opener ?NYC Journal excerpt (2000), Forsyth utilizes his electric guitar power cord and input jack as a vehicle to inject grounding hum and static into a piece that elicits notions of man vs. machine, as Diaz-Infante, here performing on acoustic piano, counters the guitarist with simply stated harmonies via well-placed block chords and slight shifts in tempo. Otherwise, the musicians? render spurious two-way dialogue, disparate tonalities, and alien soundscapes that are perhaps analogous to a young toddler deconstructing a newfound toy. Additionally, the twosome pursues free-jazz interplay, while also utilizing a toy piano, old piano soundboard and small percussion instruments as they even manage to turn in a dual guitar exposition that is vaguely reminiscent of an English folk song amid a bevy of discordant twists and turns. Consequently, it is all about two artists delving into the outer regions of abstraction.

RKF, Dead Angel

...compelling stuff and executed with a high degree of technical proficiency..We
Fans of improvisational guitar and sound, mostly of the kind typified by AMM, Bill Horist, and Fires Were Shot, will want to take note of this. Pianist Diaz-Infante and guitarist Forsyth have worked together before, but where their earlier release LEFT & RIGHT was a series of long-distance duets, this album finds them together in the studio, improvising live at the same time. They have also expanded the instrumentation to include toy piano and other odd-sound instruments (Diaz-Infante also plays acoustic guitar on some songs), and the pieces were discussed beforehand, so their improvisation is less about chaos and the unexpected and more about loosely-controlled strategies of sound architecture. Some of the pieces, such as "NYC Journal excerpt (2000) piano/guitar," employ the use of noise generated by one or both guitars, generally used as a counterpoint of sorts, and on "sound is good all the time" employs piano soundboard and acoustic guitar to emit bizarre sounds as the instruments are abused (through scratching, tweaking, and general prodding). While some of the pieces are more structured than others (such as the melodic "passing one another... acoustic/electric # 17," which begins as reverberating tones from various instruments and evolves into something far more alien), none of it sounds entirely random. One piece, "knock on wood... acoustic/electric # 11," comes perilously close at times to sounding like a lot of toys running loose in the room as guitars play randomly, but there's a kernel of structure that holds it all together (just barely), like an artful simulation of chaos on the edge of becoming uncontrollable -- surfing the improv wave, so to speak. One of my favorites, "trace out motion," opens with tinkling piano playing repetitively and near-random squeaks and scrapes from the guitar, building to a point where the guitar drops out for a while as the piano moves up and down the scale, then comes back in from a different tonal perspective. The guitar's sound gradually evolves and devolves in complexity and tonal color as the piano remains largely static, a tonal generator spitting out unexpected bursts of otherness. This is compelling stuff and executed with a high degree of technical proficiency, but without sounding academic by any means. Well worth seeking out, and both artists have extensive pedigrees and numerous releases together and separately.
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