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Thursday, August 26, 2021

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt Made Out of Sound (Palilalia, 2021) ****½


On their latest tweeter roasting blues-punk-improv fricassee the venerable duo of Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt prove that they don't even have to get together to make a great album. As it were, Corsano laid down the primer and passed the material to Orcutt who then applied multiple coats of his proprietary 4-string ultragloss. The resulting album is phenomenal in ways I wasn't at all expecting. For our purposes I think nitroglycerin is a useful metaphor. First consider the versatility of glycerol, which is used in food, medicine, soap, fuel, coolants, etc. Corsano is one of, if not the most versatile drummer on the scene. He makes everything he's a part of better. When glycerol is treated with nitric and sulphuric acid you get a highly exothermic reaction. Orcutt's playing, even with the edges softened as he's recently been prone to doing, can be the very definition of caustic. 

When Corsano and Orcutt collaborate live, the reaction is similarly exothermic. The two feed off of each other's energy, manically filling all of the available sound space with their glorious squall. In order to stabilize the reaction that produces nitroglycerin (i.e. to prevent an instant explosion) it must be cooled. Since the pair laid their parts separately you could surmise that the high energy feedback loop that drives their live sets was severed, and so on Made of Sound we're left with a more stable and refined product that is every bit as explosive.

Orcutt’s approach to the electric guitar here plays like a punk Bill Frisell suffering with restless leg syndrome, i.e. an amorphous and strangely familiar blooming of folksy colors with a notably persistent, compulsive twitch. Corsano plays in an expansive yet suggestive way that yields a lot of space in which to maneuver but also leaves an evocative trail of breadcrumbs for his buddy. The first piece "Some Tennessee Jar" is an easy-flowing river of turbulent telecaster jangle that spills amidst the loosely stitched stretches of Corsano’s suppel dynamics. The duo tense up on "Man Carrying Thing", hurrying the tempo and intricacies of their playing into big, wiry tangles. This quality is further amplified by Orcutt's use of overdubbing, in which his barbed licks overlap and cluster within Corsano's surges of rhythm. "How to Cook a Wolf" comes close to conjuring the wild energy of their live sets in a two minute dirge of prickly guitar and drums that gets more spasmodic as it plays out. "Thirteen Ways of Looking" has a dense, almost pastoral feel that hangs in the air like humidity looking for a cold surface on which to condense. The brooding "Distance of Sleep" is probably the best single cut on the album. It's high drama that plays out over a meager three-plus minutes (video below). On "The Thing Itself" Corsano roils amidst Orcutt's chiming chords and pointy runs in an extended feud against a persistent hammer-on. And finally, the album closes out with the shimmering "A Port in Air", which returns to the billowing drift of the first track and finds Orcutt slicing lines of worried notes amongst the swarth and thicket of Corsano's tumultuous circumscription. 

"Made of Sound" is one of the duo's best albums yet and stands out as unique in their discography. I've been sitting on this review for quite a while now and upon last check physical copies of this record are long sold out, but it's still available as a digital download from Bandcamp.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.


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Magnus said...

I didn´t expect to, but I really love this LP. The record i have played the most times during the spring without a doubt.

Magnus said...

I didn´t expect to, but I really love this LP. The record I have played the most time during the spring without a doubt.