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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Mary Halvorson & Noël Akchoté (s/r, 2016) ****

By Paul Acquaro

Just about every week it seems that there is an alert from Bandcamp that a new release from French guitarist Noël Akchoté is available for download. The alert from the other week though was particularly intriguing: Akchoté (who has released albums with guitarists Derek Bailey, Fred Frith and Marc Ribot, among many others) had recently teamed up with NYC's Mary Halvorson for a duo date. Halvorson and Akchoté met after she covered on his composition’s on her solo album from last year, Meltframe.

The music is a collection of Akchoté originals, several co-credited songs, and some choice covers, like the rather abstracted version of “All the Things You Are” (but one that still contains enough DNA to be identifiable) and a neat reading of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time's tune 'Him and Her.' What they do together is a rather captivating merging of approaches. The opener 'Can I V' features a rapid exchange of ideas, abstract melodies lines intersecting and diverging with a certain relentlessness.  Akchoté, who has entire albums exploring the music of musicians like John Abercrombie and Bill Frisell, leads the duo through an edgy version of Frisell's 'Strange Meeting', his brittle single note lines propped up by Halvorson's looping arpeggios.

Both bring concentrated intensity to the music, and their electric guitars are recorded sparingly, dry, and leaving little room for slacking off. The download interestingly comes with a PDF booklet containing the sheet music to all of the tunes.