Steve Nelson-Raney


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The instrument as an extension of the human voice: that's the axiom springing to mind upon listening to Breathing. Both voices heard on this disc can take many tones. Steve Nelson-Raney is the breath of the duo, handling tenor, soprano, and sopranino saxophones, along with clarinet, ocarina, and the beautiful (and very breath-demanding) shakuhachi. Hal Rammel brings in his homemade instruments, relying at times on percussion (like on "Ruffling") but mostly playing string-like instruments and bowed metal -- things that will sing a very humanlike song if handled the right way. His musical saw, triolin, and amplified sound palette hum and grunt in a breathtaking (no pun) dialogue with Nelson-Raney. "Arriving" features a duet of soprano saxophone and musical saw where both voices blend into each other. On "Muttering," shakuhachi and triolin are paired to create a very original aural experience. "Painting" (ten minutes) comes out as a treasured example of the musicians' ability to converse in an extended time frame. All the other free improvisations are shorter, mostly within the three- to five-minute range, which allows for frequent changes in instrumentation.

Overall, Breathing is a very strong free improv record, showcasing two talented musicians used to play together, deeply understanding each other (at least on a musical basis). The album was released in a limited edition of 500 with an original hand-painted photograph by the artists pasted on the cover, which makes it a highly collectable item.

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