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Tom Hamilton / Bruce Eisenbeil: Shadow Machine

John Sharpe By

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Guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil continues to push beyond the outer reaches of the guitar universe, building on the work of pioneers like Derek Bailey and Fred Frith. His career trajectory takes him ever farther from the jazz mother lode, and his last outing—on Totem>'s Solar Forge (ESP, 2008)—stretched the boundaries of the guitar power trio to breaking point. Before that he had a series of fine releases to his name on the CIMP label, as well as appearances with Cecil Taylor and David Murray.

Joining the guitarist on Shadow Machine is analog synth pioneer Tom Hamilton, who has been active on the electronic music scene for over 40 years. A long-time member of composer Robert Ashley's touring opera ensemble, Hamilton has also appeared on over 50 recordings alongside the likes of Roscoe Mitchell, Thomas Buckner and Muhal Richard Abrams.

Eisenbeil describes this project as "a search to go to someplace new," and they just about succeed. In contrast to Hamilton's electronic hums, buzzes, crackles and pure-toned vibrations, Eisenbeil posits a guitar sound that though almost entirely acoustic, using effects sparingly, still barely corresponds to convention. It is all hard dry scrabbling, percussive pops and taps. But by concentrating on placement of texture, contrasts, repetition and length of tones, the performance takes on the feel of a conversation with interaction rather than juxtaposition the order of the day.

Overall this set would have made a good soundtrack to the sort of sci-fi movie that features malfunctioning electrical equipment or a rogue computer about to implode. "Dot Dot Dot" comes on like a spacey gamelan while "The Salt Eaters" starts with what could be the outpourings of a berserker organist. More natural similes come to mind as well as sounds evoking the alarm calls of birds pervade the ominous but darkly lyrical "Little Left On The Left." Together Eisenbeil and Hamilton conjure a minimalist ambience, at times attractive, at others not, but always cohesive.


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.

Title: Shadow Machine | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Pogus

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