Two Exciting And Poignant Albums From Wendy Eisenberg

Two Exciting And Poignant Albums From Wendy Eisenberg
Hrayr Attarian By

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Both of these albums demonstrate that Eisenberg is a brilliant and intrepid artist with a confidently original voice.
—Hrayr Attarian
A fearless improviser with a refreshing disregard for genre, Wendy Eisenberg is a poet, banjoist and vocalist yet Eisenberg's guitar fully showcases her mastery. This virtuoso explores all dimensions of her instrument with fiery elegance and a vibrant sense of adventure to her music. In 2018 she released two stimulating and unique albums: Its Shape is Your Touch (VSDQ, 2018) and The Machinic Unconscious (Tzadik, 2018).

Wendy Eisenberg
Its Shape is Your Touch

Its Shape is Your Touch, for Eisenberg's unaccompanied guitar, is a deeply contemplative recording with seven intensely lyrical yet simultaneously dissonant tracks. Eisenberg explores the entire range of her guitar in an innovative and unique fashion.

Eisenberg's resonant strums and cascading strings form hypnotic refrains on the serene, flamenco-flavored "Lethe" while "Sol Lewitt" is a provocative improvisation with sparse, angular phrases deftly mixed in with silent pauses. These thrilling contrasts between tonalities and pensive silences expand to the ideas within each piece. "Early November" is impressionistic and abstract. There are hints of the Baroque in its overlapping chords and single notes as they create vibrant and engrossing autumnal hues. Its evolution is logical yet delightfully unexpected.

Hesitant vamps slowly construct the dynamic and darkly shimmering "The Designated Mourner." Melancholic and complex, this is a sublimely elegiac tune with a haunting and ethereal core melody. The eerie pizzicato on "All Saints" resembles raindrops on a sidewalk. A tense and contemplative ambience marks this passionate and eloquent extemporization, closing the disc with a bang. Eisenberg's multilayered solo opus leads to a rewarding experience with each spin.

Wendy Eisenberg
The Machinic Unconscious

If Its Shape is Your Touch is a book of cerebral and introspective verse then The Machinic Unconscious is fiery expressive prose. Inspired by French philosopher Félix Guattari's eponymous treatise, it features Eisenberg leading a trio including bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Ches Smith. The music maintains an exhilarating and cinematic atmosphere through their ardent and electrifying performances.

"The Descent of Alette" opens with otherworldly sound effects. Eisenberg's contemplative and dissonant guitar and Smith's rumbling beats break through the eerie sonic backdrop. The collective refrains simmer and bubble into Eisenberg's wailing chords and Smith's thundering rhythms. The group extemporization moves through different tempos with breathtaking agility and cohesiveness. The hypnotic "Parataxis" features Eisenberg's intricately woven, lyrical lines over Dunn's thumping reverberations and Smith's mesmerizing vamps, while "Depths of Locusts" is a riotous ensemble improvisation with an almost symphonic poignancy.

Eisenberg's restless creativity keeps the disc engaging and provocative. "Zoning" opens with a crystalline mix of Dunn's resonant tones, Smith's percussive bursts and Eisenberg's clusters of notes, and then transforms into a fluid three-way conversation. The piece goes from a somber orderliness to a riotous and thrilling jam full of delightful atonality and exuberant noise. "Kiln" is warm and vivid as it conjures images of open, dusty highways. The track is constructed from melodic shards and fragments that sound refreshingly spontaneous.

The Machinic Unconscious is a tour de force of improvised music. Both of these albums demonstrate that Eisenberg is a brilliant and intrepid artist with a confidently original voice.

Tracks and Personnel

Its Shape is Your Touch

Tracks: Sol Lewitt; Lethe; Early November; Eridanos; The Designated Mourner; Swan; All Saints.

Personnel: Wendy Eisenberg: guitar.

The Machinic Unconscious

Tracks: The Descent of Alette; Depths of Locusts; Parataxis; Zoning; Kiln; Frayed, Knotted And Unshorn; Dangerous Red; Kin Dza Dza; Mycoaelia; 6J; Foreswornn.

Personnel: Wendy Eisenberg: guitar; Trevor Dunn: bass; Ches Smith: drums.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Eisenberg via Valley Advocate online.

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