Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt
Made Out of Sound
I love Bill Orcutt. He hits at the guitar in a way that makes me think of heroes like Marc Ribot and Sonny Sharrock. There’s wildness in his way – he tears at the strings and the ugly side of a beautiful melody is instantly revealed. You guessed it: It’s all the more beautiful for that. I love Chris Corsano too. He stirs at his drumkit like he’s baking and cooking and all at once too. His hands dance across cymbals, skins and rims and he is as much at home making psychedelic rock with guitarists like Sir Richard Bishop as he is creating a through-line of dark-walled groove for Bjork.
He’s also very much at home with Bill Orcutt – this is their third record together as a duo.
Though for this one – and we can blame the pandemic and/or call it the sponsor, since this record was brought to us by Covid-19 – the two players were very much at home together, alone. Very much at home in their own homes.
This is a single session of improvisation that was recorded in two separate rooms, in two separate states – er, geographically at the least. And then Orcutt mixed it together and chopped it up into tracks. Though you’ll get the feel, straight away, when listening that it is one single (and singular) composition.
But since there are track-titles and little breaks between onslaughts, I can speak to some of the moments and call them by a name. The album opens with Some Tennessee Jar, Corsano is rolling and tumbling about the kit like some post-rock Elvin Jones, meanwhile Orcutt is layering a glissando of guitar textures.
Way before The Album Leaf, Jimmy LaValle was in a band called Tristeza. This calls to mind the sound he had there if crossed with the controlled chaos of Battles antecedent, Don Caballero.
This, by the way, is so far up my alley that I’m considering a doctor’s appointment necessary to remove the album.
That, er, touchpoint of Don Caballero continues through second track, Man Carrying Thing, a blistering roll of drums is punctuated by needlepoint guitar work. On How To Cook A Wolf we may marvel at how truly in sync these separate performances are – to the wrong ear it might still seem somewhat grating but there’s a poetry to this split performance.
Thirteen Ways of Looking slows things down with a drumroll to lead into almost Wilco-like alt-country guitars, but only if Nels Cline was the bandleader and not the hired gun. There’s something Frisell like when Orcutt slows right down too. Fragility that is achingly beautiful.
Distance of Sleep has Bill doing his twisted blues thing – the ghost of Jimi Hendrix dancing on a pin. The Thing Itself has Corsano again in sizzling Elvin Jones form, a brief solo setting up the tug-of-war between drums and guitar; Orcutt’s hammer-on ostinato the glue to place a marker on the spot.
And closer, A Port In Air, feels again like a slight country-reset.
This is an epic journey – engagement of all senses, a wild splatter-painting as album; I feel like I’m glued to a bus window, staring out at the whiplash of trees pinging by. I feel like I’m suspended in time and space with only this music hovering all around me.
I feel like any other music at all is irrelevant.
No rush on calling that doctor then.