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Grdina/Lillinger: Duo Work

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Grdina/Lillinger: Duo Work
One would be hard-pressed to find a more versatile guitarist than Gordon Grdina, who somehow manages to try something different with each release. And he is no slouch in terms of productivity either; with at least a dozen releases since 2020, this is an artist who requires multiple palettes. His sensitivity on the oud is one of his most remarkable traits; witness his superb playing on the Persian-inspired The Marrow (Attaboygirl Records, 2024) with vocalist Fathieh Honari as proof. As a guitarist, however, Grdina is often at his best when he is just shredding; to find him excelling in that vein one need look no further than this riveting effort with drummer Christian Lillinger, Duo Work. "Work" it most certainly is, as these musicians do not play around. But it is also a rollicking listening experience.

Grdina and Lillinger appeared together most recently on Live at the Armoury (Clean Feed, 2023), a trio project with violist Mat Maneri which revealed the many nuances of Grdina's contributions on both oud and guitar, in a sympathetic setting which generated lengthy, winding dialogues between the musicians. This release, by comparison, allows Grdina to turn it loose with hard-charging, gritty attacks which catalyze Lillinger's most demonstrative side as well; the onslaughts come in brief bursts, with twelve incisive tracks in just 38 minutes. Utilizing his creativity on midi-guitar to illustrate yet another facet of his craft, thoughtful multitracking allows Grdina to add layers to these pieces which render them a good deal more than just guitar-drum freakouts.

The music moves with irrepressible energy, with the relentless propulsion of "Song One" a case in point, as Grdina adds multiple intricate guitar parts on top of Lillinger's frenetic barrages. "Ash" is even more hard-driving, with Grdina's fierce licks pushing Lillinger into a manic punk-jazz realm. Lillinger is a masterful shapeshifter, and Grdina is the perfect counterpart for his anything-goes aesthetic. The sheer freneticism of his rhythmic discharges on "Bunker" even threaten to overshadow Grdina's own fearsome, fuzzed-out riffage.

A few brief digressions do emerge, such as "Gerhard," a vehicle for Lillinger's exploration of texture, or "Big Blue," Grdina's spacey dialogue between guitar and electronics. But the music truly hits its stride with the heavy thunder of "Encounters," a substantial blast of energy from both players, merging their distinctive voices (and a number of different parts from Grdina) into a seven-minute concentration of firepower which finally dissolves into a moody, atmospheric conclusion (albeit not without one last manic surge from Lillinger).

With the ideal mixture of technical brilliance and gut-punch intensity, Duo Work should appeal to a wide range of adventurous listeners.

Track Listing

Song One; Dissolution; Impala; Bunker; Ash; Encounters; Pixilated; Jalopy; Gerhard; Big Blue; Traverse; Song Two.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Gordon Grdina: guitar, Midi-guitar; Christian Lillinger: percussion,

Album information

Title: Duo Work | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Attaboygirl Records


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