(Astral Spirits)

While partially familiar with Jeremiah Cymerman’s earlier output, I must recite a mea culpa for the complete ignorance of Charlie Looker’s activities to date. His academic background, comprising studies with Anthony Braxton and Alvin Lucier at the legendary Wesleyan University, is enough on its own to inform yours truly about a solid theoretical understructure. The palette for this meeting — recorded in January 2020 — included clarinets and pedals (Cymerman), guitars and piano (Looker).

A quick trip on the web reveals that A Horizon Made Of Canvas is by and large regarded as a sort of pre-apocalyptic soundtrack, likely to upset people influenced by the absence of sunlight and fidgeting to the point of nervous breakdown if a “way out” is not identified pronto. If indeed the atmospheres don’t exactly encourage singalong, and the interplay’s nuances are defined by an overall lack of brightness, it still seems exaggerated to pass this work off as something so bleak as to boggle the mind. Essentially, all five pieces exhibit reasonably intelligible improvisational frameworks, mostly characterized by wide spaces and extensive reverberations. Whether he uses piano or guitar, Looker mainly draws figures of a few notes, often looking for narrow or even microtonal intervals rippling the mix with conflicting oscillations. Cymerman embodies the proverbial unflustered virtuoso, an impeccable technique kept in check to go along as best as possible with the pregnant linearity of his partner’s conceptions. On occasion, the clarinetist’s use of effects on the lower pitches may elicit massive subsonic swells over which he can twirl, contemplate, or just insist on one or two-note ostinatos.

Ultimately, this is not what you’d call a trailblazing record, nor do I believe that Cymerman and Looker meant it to be. Nevertheless, it’s rather interesting in terms of ricocheting hues and melting energies, and absolutely within the reach of anyone acquainted with the inner management of specifically sought dissonance. After the listening experience this writer was right as rain, never for a moment thinking of the appalling tomorrows offered by reality on a daily basis. Glancing at the faces of politicians scares me much more, whereas this music — if I’m allowed to say so — slowed my heartbeat down pretty efficiently. Maybe preparing for old age helps in observing threatening skies without getting overly panicky.