This Toronto-based duo has been active for a few years and has regularly performed with other improvisers (namely Kaffe Matthews, Gert-Jan Prins, and John Butcher, the CD Equation documenting their session with the latter). But Relay is the first release presenting the duo in itself. Mike Hansen and Tomasz Krakowiak share a highly quiet, textural, and silence-based approach to free improvisation, at the frontier of sound art. Hansen's record players often turn empty, the sound focusing on vibrations, motor hum, and minute alterations of the needle. Krakowiak uses an "amplified drum table," an amplified resonator (drum head) on which he places various objects, following a technique akin to Günter Müller's and Lê Quan Ninh's. Electronics and mini-disc sampling are also involved, which makes drawing a line between the percussionist's and the turntablist's respective contributions even more difficult than it already is. The music on Relay is sparse and often cold to the ear, like touching an abstract sculpture made of stainless steel. There is a human element, found everywhere in the subtle interaction between players, in the disembodied sounds occasionally sourced from records, in the sense of humor surfacing at times (the bullfrog dialogs in the third of these four untitled tracks). But listening to this album, one isn't as much drawn to the human factor as to the intriguing sounds and the highly esthetic, purified relations they establish with each other. Recommended to people interested in microsonic improvisation and in losing themselves in a recording they won't understand.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture