Here’s a duo we should all be interested to hear — two musicians I’d suppose have to be pretty amiable, given the number and variety of collaborations with others, in recent years. Phil Julian’s among the more active musicians in Britain 2.0’s steadily growing pool of thoughtful players — and he’s been active for far longer than I’m leading to here, notably under the moniker, “cheapmachines” — while Korber seems to cross borders at the rate of daylight with all the recording, studying and performing he involves himself with. Both have sizable catalogs of solo ventures, which are about as consistently engaging as one could hope, considering the nature of experimental/improvised music.
Herbe Zeiten (”harsh times”) is the most recent cd-r release to come from the excellent con-v weblabel, and its third or fourth to take advantage of the 3″ format. A single 18-minute piece opens with staticky oscillations, presumably from Julian, lo-fi yet pronounced, where it seems the hidden details are struggling to break free of a curiously audible carrier frequency. There’s immediate connection, with Korber demonstrating that he is in fact using a guitar, though his choice of sounds move quickly from string-generated tones to percussives and manipulation of his axe’s extremities for the remainder of the piece. In the first of a couple of fades, around five minutes in, the duo dials it down and back up again, the gap between laced with high-pitched, soft curlicues. This segue marks the beginning of a transition, where Korber’s sounds become more pronounced, and Julian’s electronic undertones take on a more subtle, drone-like bent. In the continuing development, the duo doesn’t use much beyond a handful of chosen patches/motifs, all quite complimentary to another, and sustaining the general mood.
I’m reminded of some of Oren Ambarchi’s earlier meditative work, and the piece here seems to express how such music has really evolved. Making use of near-silence (or hushed lulls) and a carefully considered stereo field, the two have come up with something here that can hardly be called “harsh”. Korber and Julian have a certain mastery of nuance, and it’s interesting to hear their approaches blend. No overkill, and nicely understated, through to a slow, dramatic fade.