Balancing kinetic thumps, steely scrapes and ghostly melodic wafts, this cello and double bass tussle recalls the lairy improv battles between John Edwards and Tom Wheatley documented by London’s Earshots Recordings, although the pugilistic onslaught of those tapes (‘Yoke’ and ‘Yoke II’) is tempered here by a slightly more reflective air. This may be due to Motl and Borden’s work with contemporary composition – both players’ biographies reveal an eye-opening array of work in that field – which could, arguably, bring an awareness of pace and structure to the organic give and take characteristic of improvisation meet-ups the world over. Not this duo are in any way inhibited as they crash through tempestuous arco swathes, jolting percussive incursions and foreboding low-end grind with abandon. The result is a pleasingly caustic blast of stringed mayhem, the pair doubling down for a session that combines technique with intuition in fine proportion.
Motl’s bass playing shows the same fluency and grit exhibited on his solo ‘Transmogrification’ from earlier in the year, particularly on ‘Hokum’, where his frantic, jazzy runs lend bouncing grooves to Borden’s cello swoops. The opening third of this track is like some lost Mingus jam, all insouciant saunter and balletic skips through the aether. Soon, however, Motl swaps fingers for bow, at first adding quizzical textural phrases to Borden’s swirl, then joining in to whip up a vortex of woody, rushing tones. By the end the pair are matching high wails with testy clatters before everything evaporates in a pungent cloud of woodsmoke.
The brooding groan of ‘Tunnel Vision Apperception’ offers a nice contrast to this hectic pace, sandwiched as it is between ‘Hoakum’ and ‘Paideuma’, its fast-paced buddy. Clocking in at over twenty minutes, there’s plenty of time to take things slow, so Motl and Borden lay down a dissonant funereal trudge reminiscent of a rusted dreadnought heaving itself out of dry dock for one last voyage. Eight minutes in, and things have fractured into blackened shards, a series of high bowed chirrups splattering the shadowy ferric shifts with molten drops. By the end there’s some seriously acousmatic business going on, one instrument transformed into a boiling kettle on the edge of explosion, the other hurling out head-splitting bagpipe drones. It’s an admirable commitment to moving beyond virtuosity into heavy sonic meditation.