Burkhard Stangl

An Old Fashioned Duet

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Among all the guitarists in free improv who adopted Keith Rowe's tabletop attack, as well as those who used their instrument more as an object to be struck and stroked than strummed, Burkhard Stangl and Taku Sugimoto always stuck out. The uniqueness of their approach had less to do with the actual sounds that emerged from their guitars, which tended toward traditional, even tonal notes, but with how those notes were positioned in aural space. A duo project seemed like a natural, and the results are gratifying, though they push matters into a more abstract realm than a listener familiar with their prior work might have expected. The disc is divided into one long improvisation followed by several short ones. The latter, especially the (untitled) fourth track, deliver the familiar, cool, resonant tones, dropped like pebbles into a pond, sounding like the mellowest imaginable Derek Bailey performance you'll ever hear. It's on the first cut that the duo push outward on the boundaries they'd previously explored, not abandoning a tonal framework entirely, but severely modifying it with damped strings, subtle rubbings, and quiet percussive effects. It's a lovely, hyper-intelligent conversation, each musician listening and responding in a relaxed manner that's no less penetrating for its soothing aspects. Highly recommended, especially for fans of guitarists like Bailey and Noel Akchote who are wondering where to hear the next several steps down that path.