This CD features only two musicians, both playing extremely clean, jazzy electric guitar. The liner notes identify Wolfgang Muthspiel as being in the left channel, and Mick Goodrick in the right. Muthspiel is the more emotionally florid player of the two, switching back and forth between ultra-conventional jazz chording and medium-speed bursts of individual notes. There are a couple of standards performed during the course of the continuously programmed set (“All the Things You Are,” “Darn That Dream,” “Stella by Starlight”), but some originals as well, and a piece or two that might well have been improvised on the spot. “Minimal,” an early highlight, is in the third category, and it’s exactly what its title implies; Muthspiel and Goodrick ping quickly flowing streams of Steve Reich-inspired tones at each other, creating an effect like a combination of Electric Counterpoint (the original recording of which was built around the playing of Pat Metheny) and the opening passages of Music for 18 Musicians. This leads directly into “Falling Grace,” on which Muthspiel goes somewhat wild as Goodrick provides a foundation of repetitive, almost bass-like figures.
In the disc’s latter half, the mood becomes more subdued and calm (track titles like “Zen” and “R.E.M,” which is not a medley of songs by the band, give this away). Notes get longer, ringing out for a few extra seconds before the next run begins. There’s some strumming, and some popping of strings, and a little bit of grit, reminding me of the two CDs of guitar duets recorded by Japanese avant-garde wizard Keiji Haino and NYC-based avant-bluesman Loren MazzaCane Connors. The one-two of “Darn That Dream” and “Stella by Starlight” that closes the disc is fascinating on its own—the standards are nearly unrecognizable, and all the better for it. This isn’t an album of trad jazz, or improv with a capital I, exactly; it’s a little of both, and simultaneously more than the sum of those two parts, but ultimately it’s a CD of guitar music. Nobody here is trying to pretend they’re doing anything but playing a guitar. Muthspiel and Goodrick are clean, expert players who understand each other and the parameters of what they’re doing, and I like this a whole lot.
1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Yes.
2. Should you buy this record? Yes.
Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…