Tom Hamilton / Bruce Eisenbeil: Shadow Machine (2009)
Hazily speaking, electronicist Tom Hamilton emerges from a modern classical realm, while guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil inhabits the jazz improvising zone. On this album, such stylistic concerns are very nearly unimportant, as the pair are engaging in their own language of free improvisation. There's more space in this music, although Hamilton and Eisenbeil never cut back on their particular type of fluid hyperactivity. The synth-man uses a Nord modular device, which operates in vintage analogue mimicry mode. He scoops himself out from the heart of electronic interference, his palette taken from the sounds of internal malfunction. Eisenbeil spiders around, sounding comparatively traditional as he shies away from the overuse of effects and devices, almost adopting a kind of contained banjo resonance.
"Dot Dot Dot" has an almost melodic quality, with both players aping marimba plinks, while the event-packed "Walleye Spawn" provides the most varied textures, with its tightly-stuttered ping-pong compressions. Hamilton and Eisenbeil have found a level of speed-dialogue, which moves from the prolonged hovering ascendance of "Little Left On The Left" to the stripped pricking frequencies of "Silver Through A Straw."
The duo effectively launched its album at last month's Rhythm In The Kitchen, a three-day festival held at the Church For All Nations in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. They were the second act of four and for a Saturday night, attendance was thin, seeming particularly so in the high-vaulted and brightly-lit space. Hamilton and Eisenbeil's sonic field isn't plump with bass sounds and came across as being particularly trebly when issuing from the small PA setup.
Even so, by making their set compacted and bright, the pair still delivered a sharply focused sequence of pieces, kept to short tune-length, as on the album. When viewed in the flesh, it was easier to attach sounds to guitar and keyboard, with Eisenbeil less abstract and more rooted in obvious string activities. Hamilton would flash fingers across his knobs and keys, aiming for sheer disembodied electro-chatter, often percussively insectoid in nature. A location lying somewhere in between a church and a bar would have been best, but this naturally intimate music still fared well due to the sheer resourcefulness of the players.
Track Listing: Dusting Off Dada; Dryer Mouth; Shadow Machine; Dot Dot Dot; Mars Fell On Alabama; Walleye Spawn; The Salt Eaters; Little Left On The Left; Silver Through A Straw.
Personnel: Tom Hamilton: Nord modular synthesizer; Bruce Eisenbeil: guitar,
Record Label: Pogus
Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde