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Tango-ed Twosomes: Muthspiel/Blade & Bailey/Baptista

Tom Greenland By

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Wolfgang Muthspiel/Brian Blade
Friendly Travelers

Derek Bailey/Cyro Baptista

It only takes two to tangle and, like Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre, where an intimate conversation between kindred spirits both generates and sustains viewer interest, two recent recordings of drum and guitar duets manifest this principle in the arena of improvised musical exchange.

Friendly Travelers, with Austrian wunderkind Wolfgang Muthspiel and the prodigiously talented percussionist Brian Blade, is one such exchange (albeit enhanced by studio overdubs and electronic loops). The compositions, contributed in equal part by Muthspiel and Blade, are tightly constructed with multiple layerings and balanced sectioning. There are a few improvised gems as well: "Balladino , "Andreljow , "Cold Summer, and "The Tuning of the Bells have a just-discovered ambiance that comes as a welcome departure. "Heavy Song is powerful with a run-on metrical grouping, propulsive overdriven guitar and a paint-peeling solo section that manages to sustain intelligence and flow for all its visceral impact. Blade is his usual mercurial self, playing over, under and sideways, eschewing obvious repetition while maintaining directionality.

In contrast, Derek, a live recording of guitarist Derek Bailey and percussionist/vocalist Cyro Baptista's 2003 performance at NYC's Tonic, represents a patent rejection of any overt structuring devices, deriving its continuity and cohesion from spontaneously evolving moments of serendipitous synchronicity, only to be quickly abandoned in transverse musical roamings. Baptista employs a hodgepodge of percussive effects, including scraped and scratched membranophones, bells, triangles, rain-sticks, beaded gourds, rattled chains, sleigh bells, bird calls, chimes, and the like. His vocalizations are no less inventive, ranging from faux French raps, Medieval modal Kyries, ululation, sped-up crooner-era tape loops (check his Sinatra-esque "When Somebody Loves Me at chipmunk speed), tongue rolls, voiced sibilants, and vocal percussion. At one point he alters the internal geography of his vocal tract to produce subtle timbral modulations akin to Tuvan throat singers. Bailey's textures consist of a variety of swelling harmonics, ring modulator and "prepared guitar"-type effects, riffled and raked "arpeggios , half-fretted pointillistic staccatos, palm-muted clusters, snapped and popped strings, muffled strumming and other techniques too numinous to mention. Amazingly, Baptista and Bailey create momentum in the moments, urged on by the warm vibes of the audible downtown audience.

Tracks & Personnel

Friendly Travelers

Tracks: Gnadenwald; Between the Beats; End on 4; Vallekilde; Youssou; Friendly Travelers; Balladino; Heavy Song; Andrej Rubljow; Cold Summer; The Tuning of the Bells.

Personnel: Player Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitars, voice; Brian Blade: drums, guitar, voice.


Tracks: Sheffield F. C.; Ubachuva.

Personnel: Derek Bailey: guitar; Cyro Baptista: percussion, voice.


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