By Nick Metzger
This record compiles two performances from the duo of saxophonist Mette Rasmussen and guitarist Tashi Dorji. Recorded in Montreal, the first four tracks were laid down at Thee Mighty Hotel2Tango, with the last track capturing a live performance at La Sala Rosa. Rasmussen has been involved in some of my favorite recordings of the past 5 or so years. Her playing on collaborations with Chris Corsano, Paul Flaherty, Alan Silva and of course the acclaimed Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon combo is inventive, precise, and powerful. Likewise, Dorji is one of the most multi-faceted improvising guitarists of our time. His playing is unique and captivating whether electric or acoustic, through effects pedals, clean, and/or with preparations. His duo albums with Tyler Damon (Both Will Escape and Leave No Trace) have been among the most enthusiastically received by the writers of this blog, and his immense solo guitar back catalogue is filled to the brim with innovative playing and timbral concepts. Here we find the duo settling into a series of texturally rich and fiery improvisations.
Cattail Horse gets the duo started with Rasmussen’s burly honking and squeals blasted out over Dorji’s metallic slashing. The saxophone runs pristine scales and patterns over the manic guitar work. Dorji then loops a rhythmic figure which segues into Bull Rush, over which he weaves deep-toned notes with pointillist and trebly shapes. Rasmussen is brilliantly lyrical over the din until roughly the midpoint, at which point the pair delve into a rapturous segment of free playing that spans the remainder of the track. As Affinity begins Dorji rolls back the distortion but not the intensity, providing a wiry bed of fretwork for Rasmussen who augments her timbre with preparations, making her lines crackle and sizzle. The piece grows more restrained towards the end, with chiming prepared guitar and quiet sax hissing. Tall Grass begins with Rasmussen utilizing extended techniques and vocalizing through her instrument which imparts an almost vocoder-like effect. Dorji offers complex ringing veils of textural thunderclouds under which the saxophone whispers and whimpers. The live piece, Liberty, is the longest of this set and finds the duo playing off each other in an animated tapestry of controlled power. Dorji explodes into wailing tremolo picking and Rasmussen meets him in unison, rupturing like a tidal wave on the break wall. The playing takes on tremendous intensity and they ride out the momentum until it dissipates into a spectral landscape of soft sax trills and sinewy guitar noise. Dorji then imparts a reprise of the looped figure from the first track as Rasmussen blasts forceful figures over top, both players stopping on a dime to well-deserved applause.
Duo albums can sometimes feel quite sparse, but this is full of texture and activity. And while it is pretty noisy it never becomes too cacophonic to be enjoyable. The density of the improvisations isn’t of the overlapping non-communicative variety, but is rather sympathetic and well timed. When one provides hard lines, the other provides color. Their excellent rapport makes for a very compelling listen; let’s hope we hear a great deal more from this duo in the near future.
Listen and download from Bandcamp.
Rassmussen/Dorji Duo at Brooklyn Steel, NYC: