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Janet Feder + Fred Frith: Ironic Universe (2007)

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Janet Feder + Fred Frith: Ironic Universe How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Janet Feder and eminent guitarist/improviser Fred Frith perform twelve duet pieces on audio disc one of Ironic Universe as vacillating undercurrents, utilizing atypical tonal contrasts and implementations such as tapping sounds. With folk-ish overtones and similarities to the late John Fahey's complex chord phrasings, the duo also intertwines avant frameworks into this congenial set. At times it seems that the artists are using some sort of mic-generated processing techniques to produce reverberant effects and chord-based strings swashes. Nonetheless, there are some truly fascinating passages throughout.

The companion DVD offers a solo live performance by Feder, filmed at a Denver, Colorado location where she communicates ingenuity and wit by snapping a metal clip on her acoustic guitar strings to obtain a regenerating harmonic plane. The three Feder-rendered works are interspersed by shots of a fishbowl, flames and someone scribbling notes, adding a trippy accent to her often mind-bending performances. The film also includes footage of Frith and Feder performing live.

In addition, the video captures Frith's 2004 Boulder, Colorado solo performance. He literally pulls out the stops during an extended piece by inserting chopsticks in two strategically located areas on his fretboard. The guitarist surges onward by rhythmically shaking his acoustic guitar—much to the audience's delight. Frith also wets his finger tips to alternate strumming/picking duties by sliding the top of his finger on the upper area of his guitar body to induce a harrowing effect. Organic, unorthodox and at times unimaginable, his approach here extends the possibilities of the guitar. They don't teach this is stuff in school, folks. Frith's solo performance in particular adds credence to his stature as one of the great improvisers of our time.

Track Listing: Audio CD: Opening; Heart Beat Faster; Torn; Short Story; See You on the Beach; Loose Slots; Six of One; Cricket; Hover; Waking the Day; Blue State; Closing. DVD: Fred Frith live solo performance, duo performance and Janet Feder live solo performance.

Personnel: Janet Feder: guitars; Fred Frith: guitars.

Record Label: Ad Hoc Records

Style: Fringes of Jazz


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