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Gordon Grdina: Everything Old Is New Again

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Guitarist and oud master Gordon Grdina's imagination is as deep as it is broad. As a result, there are those titles in his rapidly expanding discography that, like this pair on Attaboygirl Records, bear some measure of resemblance to previously released titles. Such an impression is nonetheless deceptive, as is the reappearance of names like the Canadian's band, The Marrow, or his frequent collaborator, percussionist Christian Lillinger: such participation constitutes legitimate extension of previous works. But that observation may also slightly camouflage the fact that those successive efforts are astute on their very own terms; just like Grdina himself, his collaborators are sufficiently confident in themselves as artists to interact with others without fear of losing their respective personalities.

Gordon Grdina / Christian Lillinger
Duo Work
Attaboygirl Records
2024

The cacophonous opening that is "Song One" sets the tone for this two-man outing. A simultaneous consolidation and companion piece to these two musicians' participation in the Square Peg outfit, it is also an exercise in stamina in pursuit of the nuances of noise: Grdina's use of MIDI guitar is an implicit challenge to Lillinger on drums and percussion. But the latter certainly rises to the occasion in the midst of all this action (besides mastering the recordings from Bewake Studios mixed by John Raham): cuts such as "Impala'' find these two jousting in time for the duration. Those less-than-two minutes, like each of the dozen tracks, not only generates a momentum of its own but also accumulates enough to carry over into the whole. So, "Ash" is one of the four formal compositions of the stringed-instrument wizard and it carries all the impact of the free-form pieces he improvised in tandem with his esteemed collaborator. As on "Encounters," their instantaneous exchanges during these thirty-eight minutes-plus bespeak a chemistry untainted by extraneous elements (including the constraints of time). Would there were more content like "Gerhard," however, because abrasive as it is, this piece furthers the revelation of ostensibly endless inspiration in play during these recording sessions.

Gordon Grdina's The Marrow with Fathieh Honari
Eponymous
Attaboygirl Records
2024

As picturesque as is the sun-drenched image of the album cover photo, the music of Gordon Gridina's The Marrow with Fathieh Honari is also deeply penetrating. Through the hypnotic progressions of these five—the band itself plus the latter vocalist—the acoustic elements of the instruments conjure up a most mystical air. "Not Of Them" carries weight through the interweaving of the bandleader's oud with voice, cello, bass and percussion, a sequence that generates a tangible force both physically and emotionally incisive. Given the fact the players and singer are the source of the impact, it is likely the mesmerizing effect of the "Raqib" is as immersive for them as listeners. There emerges an almost indiscernible increase in the level of intensity of each successive track of the five here, an evolution all the more palpable as additional singers chime in on the latter cut, as well as the rousing conclusion that is "Qalandar." Likewise, shifting instrumental prominence becomes overt at the outset of "Raqs e Parvaneh," enhancing the subtlety that emerges over the course of this near forty-three minutes. Such displays hardly lessen as "Break The Branch" commences: with insertion of verse by the 13th century's Rumi, the sonority of Grdina and company sounds even more timeless.

Tracks and Personnel

Duo Work

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

Personnel: Gordon Grdina: guitar, Midi-guitar; Christian Lilliner: drums, percussion.

Gordon Grdina's The Marrow with Fathieh Honari

Tracks: Not Of Them; Raqib; Raqs e Parvaneh; Break The Branch; Qalandar.

Personnel:Gordon Grdina: oud; Hank Roberts: cello; Mark Helias: bass; Hamin Honar: percussion; Fathieh Honari: voice.

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