Chris Forsyth & Nate Wooley: Third

Rekem Records LP (rekem 06)

Various first-world problems have prevented me from listening to this release from Athens’ Rekem Records until recently, and, bloody hell, I regret that. A duet between free rock guitarist Forsyth and trumpeter Wooley, this is fantastic – noisy, alien, nuanced, dissonant, mournful, delicate, and abrasive – generally jolly good.

Third is, as the title suggests, the latest in a trio of collaborations from these two players. Recorded live in early 2013 in Philadelphia (check out this YouTube footage for a visual document of the meeting), it bears some resemblance to Wooley solo recordings like 9 Syllabesbut, as with the get-togethers that preceded it, Forsyth’s presence pushes things into a different, more rugged space.

The record comprises a single piece, Evening Rage, split into two parts.
Part 1 kicks off noisily, with a wavering, fanged drone, as malignant as a giant wasp. Sheets of metallic abrasion – sometimes sounding like monolithic power chords, other times like clouds of steely hail or huge blowtorches – cut across it, appearing and disappearing without warning.

The noise in this section is characterised by a kind of obstinate minimalism. Rather than the transcendent plasticity of Merzbow, or the grainy oppression of your typical harsh noise wall practitioner, it is at once muted and intimidating, like some huge Richard Serra sculpture. Listening to it is like seeing Wooley and Forsyth moving great blocks of sound, sculptors searching for exactly the right assemblage for their artwork.

Underneath all this, the buzzing drone seems omnipresent, so it is surprising when it cuts out, leaving a cold space inhabited by ringing sustain and incessant bangs. We’re into more familiar improvisational territory here, foreshadowing the more reflective vibe of Part 2, with Wooley’s extended techniques complemented by languid picking from Forsyth. Before long, however, the abrasion returns, a breathy hiss slowly getting stormier, with great wiry gusts of noise blowing in and out, each with subtle sonic variations in tone and texture.

In Part 2, the lobe-scouring sonics are gently pushed aside for a more out-there journey. A series of austere, chilly tones proceeds to drift past. There are some lovely hollow, recurring clunks, as well as eerie feedback whines, breathy clicks and barbed-wire guitar improv squiggles. The pace is stately, and the sounds have an almost corporeal resonance. It’s less Serra, more like a delicate, if less beautiful, Alexander Calder mobile.

But it’s towards the end of Part 2 that things, for me, get really interesting. Forsyth plucks a series of dampened notes on his guitar. Wooley joins in by singing an almost falsetto vocal line, which then becomes a high trumpet note. It’s as if both players have exhausted their normal chops and are summoning up something from deep within themselves, like athletes in the last mile of a marathon – at the point of collapse, yet forcing themselves on in a supreme act of will.


Buy it here 

Check out more from Rekem here and from its sister label Organised Music from Thessaloniki here.


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