Touchdown / Orthrelm

Touchdown/Orthrelm

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    8
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This is an excellent split CD pairing two instrumental duos doing some astounding things, despite their seemingly limiting instrumentation. Orthrelm (Mick Barr on distorted, treble-heavy guitar and Josh Blair on drums) checks in first with four untitled tracks totaling about 13 minutes. Nearly overwhelming in their detail and information density, these songs are firmly within Orthrelm' s by-now distinctive personal idiom, sounding like a cross between high energy '60s free jazz (due to the drumming) and modern extreme metal (based on the angular guitar-shredding). The music, though it contains no repetition and may even sound improvised to some listeners, is in fact fully composed, and close listening reveals a strong attention to form and to the development of certain motives or melodic ideas. It is also, despite being challenging, much easier to get into than Orthrelm' s earlier release, Asristir Vieldrioix. Touchdown (Emily Powers on clean-toned electric bass and Nate Smith on drums) fills out the rest of the disc, with nine tracks totaling about 23 minutes. While often frantic and filled with off-kilter rhythms, odd time signatures, and fast changeups from one idea to the next, this music is much more down-to-earth and playful-sounding than Orthrelm's. Much of this has a lurching, herky-jerky quality, in parts accelerating and decelerating in a way that makes this closer to "calculus rock" than "math rock." Yet it feels utterly natural and unforced -- the duo plays with intensity, and the tunes are consistently memorable. All in all, this is some of the most remarkable, least pretentious out-rock to come out of the underground in 2002, making this an easily recommended (if perhaps exhausting) release.

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