Sunday, 16 August 2009



A penchant for virtual grimacing, the indomitable tendency to irrepressible dissonance, the now-scientific-now-burlesque approach to improvisation are just three amidst the thousands of different facets contained by Shadow Machine, first recorded collaboration of Tom Hamilton (Nord Modular analogue synthesizer) and Bruce Eisenbeil (guitar). The enterprise works great - and not surprisingly, despite the practically opposite artistic backgrounds. What links this odd couple is the insightful searching for the right balance between discordance (also to be intended as “fearless abandoning of well-trodden paths”) and intuition-driven surprise in scarcely familiar acoustic territories.

Hamilton has forever been interested in analyzing how parallel combinations of unpredictable sounds behave in a predefined environment, his music often perilously nearing the borders of incomprehensibility but still typified by a perspicacious audaciousness which distinguishes the seriousness of those experiments from the mass of wannabes running Max/MSP without knowing what a composition actually is. Eisenbeil is the archetypal no-barrier guitarist, a man who designs apparently abstruse new theories and applications of instrumental techniques that instead reveal the seeds of a superior musical intelligence. One does not collaborate with people such as Cecil Taylor or Evan Parker for nothing.

The respective personalities might be separated by the obvious timbral differences, yet the resulting fusion is totally unproblematic. Although there’s not a single consonant moment to be found in the entire disc, the rationality behind these abstract figurations is enough to prevent discomfort, the musicians following their instinctive propensity to the disaggregation of conventional harmonic codes while establishing a series of regenerative, if barely stable patterns informed by a firm willingness to remain interconnected.

A lesson in maturity, shared suggestions and immediate responsiveness at the basis of an interaction whose value is directly proportional to its compactness, innumerable deviations and refractions notwithstanding. A courageous effort, worthy of your utmost attention.