Anthony Braxton & Fred Frith – DUO (VICTORIAVILLE) 2005


Accommodating difference comes quite easily for recognized masters of improvisation; Anthony Braxton and Fred Frith are two poles of a globe whose rotation can alter, if not subvert, the order of things, and both studiously avoid bathing in the waters of simplification during these five conversations. But there’s also plenty of room for playful free-punk-jazz exchanges: the third track commences with Frith drumming on the strings, Braxton joining him in a destructive heartache of microtones and garrulous fuzz anarchy which, at times in its almost 23-minute length, transports the couple to pre-delirious, divertissement mode in between inquisitive (and more peaceful) intertwining lines. When Braxton travels to rhapsody city, he finds a committee of limpid harmonics, glissando chords and looped fragments waiting to welcome him; Frith’s peculiar set-up allows for a continuous shift of the guitar sounds, both real time and delayed, across the stereo space, facilitating dialogue (and argument) within constantly changing frameworks. Sudden dissonant heads ups remind the audience that they’re not attending a country wedding. The final track begins with a whirlwind of apparent nonsense, Braxton’s spiralling atonality scratched by Frith’s nasal mosquitoes and detuned bumps until everything becomes linked in a logical, yet still perplexing amalgam. Duo is a fine example of the way great artists keep us on our toes with music that’s hard-headed, stimulating, impregnable but never predictable. Your final judgement depends on where you draw the line between expectation and fulfilment, but to do that accurately you’ll have to listen many times. I’m still studying.


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