(Aural Terrains)

I will not lie, this review had a problematic gestation. Numberless components of Acceptance Of Sorrow categorically reject a sheer description; sometimes, even a simple analysis. On the other hand, the uncontaminated springs of an original such as Milo Fine cause this sort of problem to ears frequently polluted by formulaic pronouncements. The Minneapolis maverick’s insight, shared by this writer for a long time now, yet still full of unanticipated twists and turns, is not limited to mere musical indications. It encompasses varied existential layers, profound reflections synthesized in sounds as temperamental as impossible to encode.

Fine’s nonconformist experimentation has placed him alongside illustrious companions throughout his path; Derek Bailey and Anthony Braxton immediately come to mind. But guitarist Joseph Damman — also from Minneapolis, and an equally active figure in the local scene — is another kind of proposition. Younger and relatively undiscovered, apparently self-taught (he mainly picks and strums with the right thumb à la Wes Montgomery, minus the sugar), a fondness for African folk among several interesting details in his CV. In essence, Damman would — on surface — appear as an unlikely interlocutor for Fine’s unconventional manner, informed by erratic designs alternated with moments of near-contemplation.

Not so. Nevertheless, it did take days of serious focus before fathoming the duo’s spirited practicality. Damman’s capacity of catching the more experienced partner’s intuitions and locating spots to fit into the interaction is essential in that regard. The unprocessed tone of his amplified acoustic guitar warrants a consistent clarity to an often clustery dialogue, complementing quite efficiently each color in Fine’s palette (drum set/percussion, Bösendorfer Imperial piano, B flat clarinet, marimba). This somewhat awkward balance helps, and not a little, to improve the absorption of a music whose natural entanglement — not deprived of instants of absolute stillness — is a treasurable gift in times of sonic and mental plastification.

Lastly, the album’s title. Sorrow is the name of the beautiful painting of a Black drummer adorning the cover. It was bought by Fine’s parents (Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Agnes) way back when, and today it’s hanging from the wall of his home studio, where this set was taped on September 9, 2018.